Junior high track phenom Tayla Schwarz has added an impressive bit of information to her résumé: National champion.
Schwarz, who won Illinois Elementary School Association titles in the shot put and discus as a seventh and eighth grader at Reagan Middle School, took top honors in the shot put at the USATF Junior Olympics held July 21-27 in Humble, Texas, just outside of Houston. She competed in the 13-14 Division.
Schwarz’s winning effort of 45 feet, 8˝ inches came on the fifth of six throws. She won by more than 2 feet over her nearest competitor, Veronica Fraley of Raleigh, N.C., who was the runner-up with a distance of 43-7.
While warming up for the event, Schwarz uncorked a number of throws in the 48-foot range.
“I was excited to win, but I didn’t perform as well as I’d have liked to,” Schwarz said. “I was throwing a lot farther in practice the day before, and I was hoping to replicate that in the meet, but it didn’t happen.”
The event was one of adjustments for Schwarz. Competitors in the 13-14 division use a 6-pound shot put, as opposed to an 8-pound, 8-ounce ball she used in IESA meets.
“It fits different in your hand,” Schwarz said. “It comes off your fingers different. It’s really hard to adjust, going back and forth from the 6-pound shot to the 8-pound shot.”
Schwarz is also learning a new style of throwing. She previously used a glide technique, combined with a bit of a shuffle – something she termed a “gluffle.”
Her junior high track coach, Lee Eastman, is in the process of teaching her a spin technique.
“The glide is more for tall throwers, and I’m not very tall,” Schwarz said. “Once I get everything down, I think it’s really going to help me.”
Schwarz also competed in two more events at the Junior Olympics. In the discus, she finished with a throw of 120 feet, good for third place behind Karlee Freeman of Raymond, Wash. (130-10), and Hannah Hall of Oakland, Calif. (125-1).
Schwarz has consistently thrown in the 120-foot range, but has been unable to get much past that. She’s been working with Eastman, who drove 18 hours to watch Schwarz compete, on getting the optimum amount power generated at the release point.
“I’ve thrown 120 feet like a bajillion times,” Schwarz said. “I’m just stuck in a slump.”
Schwarz wrapped up the Junior Olympics by placing 10th in the javelin with a toss of 93-11. It’s only the third time she’s competed in that event, and she watched more experienced athletes throw on YouTube to prepare.
“Coaches go to softball or baseball teams, find people with good arms, and turn them into javelin throwers,” Schwarz said. “I’ve always had a pretty good arm in softball, so I thought I’d try it.”
Schwarz will start her freshman year at Dixon High School in a few weeks, and plans to play volleyball this fall. In the winter, she’ll prepare for the upcoming track season.
Next spring, she’s expected to be among the state’s top throwers. The distances with which she won eighth grade titles in the shot put (41-2) and discus (120-7) this past spring would have earned her third and fifth, respectively, at the Class 2A high school state meet.
Each athlete who exceeded those distances was a senior.
“I’d love to win state as a freshman, but that’s going to be really hard to do, competing against seniors,” Schwarz said.
FYI: Won the shot put at USATF Junior Olympics in Humble, Texas last month. ... Also placed third in discus and 10th in javelin. ... Won IESA shot put and discus championship as 7th and 8th grader at Reagan Middle School.