A Paul Kane student has become the national champ in her age group for throwing heavy objects really, really far.
Paul Kane Grade 12 student Lauren Friesen took gold in the U20 Women’s weight throw at the 2022 Athletics Canada Indoor U16-U18-U20 Championships held March 26-27 in Saint John, N.B, with her winning throw of 13.45 metres — a personal record.
Friesen said she set that record on the last of her six permitted throws, the fifth of which infuriatingly landed one centimetre short of her previous best.
“I’ve always struggled with the mental part of it,” she said of the weight throw, but she managed to clear her mind and throw her best on that last try.
“I kind of just went blank and trusted the muscle memory, and it worked out.”
Friesen said the weight throw is the indoor version of the hammer throw — the classic track-and-field event which involves spinning really fast to throw a weight very, very far. Instead of a four-kilogram ball on a long wire, the weight throw uses a roughly nine-kilogram ball with a rotatable handle, resulting in shorter distances more suited for indoor competitions.
Friesen said she got into the hammer throw, weight throw, javelin, shotput, and discus events back in Grade 8 after she qualified for the Alberta Summer Games. That first competition was a bit of a bust — she had just two weeks to learn the hammer throw — but she steadily improved afterward with the help of St. Albert Mustangs coach Ralph Troschke.
Friesen said she prefers the hammer throw to the shotput and discus (which use many of the same techniques) as you can get a lot more distance out of the hammer.
“It’s a great outlet for stress,” she said, and a sport anyone of any body type can learn.
Troschke said the hammer throw and the pole vault are the two most difficult events in track from a technical perspective.
“The hammer throw is kind of like a golf swing — you never perfect it, and it can be very frustrating, because there’s always an elbow or wrist or a shoulder that shouldn’t be where it is,” he said.
Troschke said he was happy but not surprised to see Friesen take the gold at nationals, as she has the speed, strength, focus, flexibility, determination, and body awareness needed for hammer throw. Friesen is now likely the top-ranked athlete with the Mustangs and certainly the fifth best in her age group in Alberta.
Friesen said she typically trains 11 hours a week, using a mix of yoga, weightlifting, and throwing to practice. The last two years were challenging due to pandemic-related track closures and construction at the St. Albert track facility — most of her practice lately has happened in Sherwood Park and Edmonton.
Friesen said this will be her last season of indoor track competition — she is headed to the University of British Colombia this fall on a sports scholarship, and she will be able to switch full time to her preferred sport of outdoor hammer throwing there due to the weather. The UBC has some of Canada’s top hammer throwers on staff, and she said she is very excited to work with them.
Friesen said she plans to study science at UBC and hopes to get into medicine.
Friesen said she hopes to continue competing in the hammer throw throughout university and to eventually make Team Canada. She said she has stuck with the sport all these years due to its tight-knit community and weird, quirky nature.
“It’s fun to see people’s faces when I tell them I’m a hammer thrower,” she said.