Hoffman continues Sehome throwing legacy next door
April 15, 2012
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
ANDREW LANG - THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
When Western Washington University senior thrower Michael Hoffman was a member of the Sehome track and field team in 2007, Mariners throws coach Tim Carlson talked to Hoffman and other talented Sehome throwers who were a part of the Mariners' state title team such as Steven Ayers, Nick Lohse and Nelson Westlin about making their mark in the sport.
Since 2007, Ayers moved on to football, Lohse spent some time on the Humboldt State University track and field team and Westlin is a junior thrower at WWU. While those athletes have enjoyed success, Hoffman has certainly heeded Carlson's words and has become a great representative for the sport in many ways.
"Michael has become a great ambassador for the sport," Carlson said in a phone interview. "One of the things we've always talked to Michael about - and all those guys in that (2007) group - is leaving their own legacy. That is something I believe (Hoffman) is trying to do. It's something that got passed to him and that he is going to pass on to the next group of Sehome throwers coming through."
Despite placing third in state in the shot put and fourth in the discus as a senior at Sehome, Hoffman found only one school wanting his services at the collegiate level.
"(Western track and field coach) Pee Wee (Halsell) was the only one to say, 'Hey, come throw for us,'" Hoffman said in a phone interview. "No one else really had me on their radar. When I was welcomed, it was a great decision. It's nice to be in the same town."
Staying home turned out to be a huge blessing for Hoffman, as he's been able to blossom as a thrower with the help of Western coach Lex Kaligis while still getting tips from Carlson.
Not only has Hoffman been able to continue to work with his old throws coach, he has been able to give back to the school that has helped him develop into one of the top Division II throwers in the country by choosing to attend a college that is literally down the road from where he spent his high school days.
"By staying home, I've been able help out at Sehome," Hoffman said. "It's pretty cool. I help Tim Carlson, the throws coach. I help him with his throwers. I work out for Western in the morning, go to class, then I help out at Sehome in the afternoon."
Although Hoffman got his start throwing the shot and discus at Sehome, the 6-foot-4, 230 pounder has taken advantage of a college exclusive throw that has helped him etch his name in the WWU record books.
An avid extreme sports junkie who loves to downhill mountain bike, snowboard and BMX, it only makes sense Hoffman would gravitate to the hammer - an event Hoffman described as putting the thrower on the edge of being out of control just before everything comes together.
Carlson said he believed Hoffman expressed interest in the hammer in high school, but the event, which requires a proper throwing facility Carlson said can cost upwards of $15,000, is not a sanctioned high school track and field throw.
But Hoffman's frame, innate rotational ability and accessibility to the event in college has bred tremendous success for the Western thrower.
"Michael is very competitive, athletic and very good technically," Halsell said. "He's worked hard lifting and has done what he's needed to do to be competitive. He's throwing real well, and I think he's on track right where he was the last couple of years."
Hoffman enjoyed strong sophomore and junior campaigns, qualify for nationals both years in the hammer. He had his best finish - 10th place - during his sophomore season.
"I guess it comes down to the type of body I have, and how I am able to spin around," Hoffman said. "I have a lot of rotational speed, which is really helpful in the hammer. Coming in (to college), I knew it was something that I would be good at. I have long arms and can spin around quickly. I became really dedicated to the hammer."
Just as it seemed Hoffman may have all but mastered tossing the 16 pound ball attached to a 3 foot, 11 3/4 inch long wire after setting the WWU school record with a throw of 206 feet, 3 inches his junior year, he endured a minor set back at nationals, where Hoffman ended his season with a 14th-place finish.
Now in his final year, Hoffman has high hopes for nationals, as does Halsell, who billed Hoffman as one of the top throwers to come through the WWU track and field program.
"Well, he's the school record holder in the hammer and definitely the best we've had," Halsell said. "He's the first and only to break the 200 (foot) barrier. I think he's third (all time) in the discus, and he competes in the shot put to score points. He's a very well rounded thrower. He's one of the better ones we've had."
After winning both the hammer and discus at the WWU/Ralph Vernacchia Invitational Saturday, March 31, Hoffman was selected as the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Male Athlete of the Week for the fourth time in his career.
While the fourth time being recognized is welcoming to Hoffman, there's a different number the senior thrower has on his mind - 242.
"I didn't really put a goal (on my season)," Hoffman said. "But I know 242 is the Olympic trials qualifying mark. That'd definitely be a big goal. One day I would like to get there."
So far the majority of the season Hoffman has been forced to compete in poor weather conditions. With trips to Ellensburg and California on the horizon, Halsell knows Hoffman is just one throw away from not only earning a better place at nationals, but also moving closer to that Olympic qualifying mark.
"He's been to nationals the last two years, and I think he'll get back again," Halsell said. "I think he is just one throw away, and it could happen anytime. I think he'll make it happen if he gets to nationals."
Competing on the biggest track and field stage Division II has to offer is no easy task, and Hoffman said he fell victim to his nerves the previous two times he competed for a national title.
But this year Hoffman said he is using his past experiences to ensure he performs his best in his final time throwing the hammer for WWU.
"From those two experiences I've learned a lot," Hoffman said. "This year I'm definitely a lot more mature. You know how to get yourself ready to throw and get that PR."
Hoffman will get that chance to reach a new personal record at the NCAA Division II National Championships, if he qualifies, Thursday-Saturday, May 24-26, at Colorado State University-Pueblo in Pueblo, Colo.
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