Senior Theo Baldus flips on the music for practice.
“Jailhouse Rock,” comes over the loudspeaker as the throwers split into shot put and discus groups.
Baldus reads a clipboard with today’s workout to the discus throwers, and they all face the wall as they begin their progressions.
They’re working on footwork, but in between each motion, Baldus’ foot taps to the beat of the tune.
As the song changes to “Go, Johnny Go,” throwing coach Rich Sherman brings Baldus up to the front for instruction. Baldus balances on one foot with his arms outstretched: right hand back and left forward.
While Baldus holds his pose, the rest watch as Sherman talks about generating power.
It seems silly, practicing in a gym where you can’t throw a discus, but Sherman has to make do because he’s hoping he can get Baldus back to state to win the title this time.
That starts with the technique.
“I'm a big believer in arm speed,” Sherman said. “If I can get the arm speed where it should be and I can get the foot speed where it should be, then we're going to reach maximum potential.”
The St. Ansgar throwers have been outside in the throwing circle three times for practice and once for competition. Out there, they’ll throw golf clubs and bowling pins to increase arm speed. Golf clubs around for range of motion, while bowling pins provide a little more weight.
Inside, they throw towel balls against the walls of the gym.
“Inside it's all footwork, so just technique technique, drilling that, building muscle memory,” Baldus said. “First meet, three times outside before the season started, I was pleased. But it's not where I want it.”
Baldus’ only mark from the outdoor season is at 158 feet, 4 inches and all three of his attempts were over 155. His personal record is 164-11.
“That was a very good series for him for this first time out,” Sherman said. “The only problem is by the time state track comes along or district track comes along, his throwing arm will be equivalent of second week of April instead of the second week of May. It's like baseball, it's why they have spring training, you know?”
Practice conditions and lack of competition this season are the cherry on top to a frustrating senior year for Baldus.
After dislocating his left shoulder during wrestling season and several times last summer, Baldus had shoulder surgery on his left arm in August. He spent his entire senior football season as a captain from the sidelines.
“For him you feel so bad for the athlete who spent a lot of time working hard and being a good leader in our program and missing out on his senior year, that's a tough thing to see as a coach,” head football and boys’ track coach Drew Clevenger said.
“Selfishly, obviously, he was a tremendous player for us, started from his sophomore year and junior year as well…he was a first team all-state football player had he been healthy no doubt in my mind.”
Baldus spent his first six weeks in a sling, then rehabbed his shoulder for five months.
While the injury was not to his throwing shoulder, it kept him out of the weight room until January.
In a discus progression, his left arm, combined with the appropriate footwork, is used to drive the right arm around as fast as possible before release. Baldus says while the left arm feels fine, he feels a slight discomfort every once and a while when he practices holding the arm up for continuous repetitions.
“He's been chomping at the bit because it's been so long since he's competed,” Clevenger said. “He's healthy, he looks good, his attitude has been great. He just needs to get out there and compete.”
Baldus has worked through the beginning drills, so now he’s working on his throwing progression.
He balances on his right foot with his right arm back. His left arm is stretched in front and just before he starts, he twitches his two middle fingers before planting his front foot forward and swinging around to launch a towel ball at the gym wall.
He wears a state track t-shirt, where he took third in discus and fourth in shot put last year.
While he’d like to win it all, Baldus knows he’s faced a lot to get back in the circle. Sherman believes that everything has a way of working itself out.
"I don't think he's at his maximum for the year, but I think he will be," Sherman said. "Sky is the limit, actually."