MANKATO, Minn. – Several Division I track and field programs wanted Ryan Loughney to throw weights and hammers for them. A small private Division II school in Ohio wanted him, too.
Do you want the glory, Loughney’s high school coach asked him, or do you want to throw far?
|LEAPING TO THE LEAD|
Grand Canyon scored 25 points in Friday’s first day of the NCAA Championships. While all of those came in the long jump, it was enough to take the day one lead, five points better than second-place Ashland.
• Complete story, click here
“I said ‘I want to throw far,’” said Loughney, who five years later is a redshirt senior at Ashland, “and that’s what I’m doing now.”
Indeed he is.
Loughney was named to the watch list for the Bowerman Award, which is given to the top college trackman in the country.
On Friday, with a toss of 22.20 meters (72 feet, 10 inches), Loughney defended his NCAA DII weight throw title at the Men’s Indoor Track & Field Championships in Mankato, Minn.
Now his focus shifts to defending his hammer throw title this spring in the NCAA outdoor meet, and then to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in June.
No one can say for sure where Loughney would be right now should he have chosen a higher-profile Division I school, but it’s safe to say the Grahamsville, N.Y. native doesn’t have any second thoughts.
The small school in Columbus, Ohio, with an undergrad enrollment of 2,200, is a DII power; its men’s and women’s teams each came to Mankato ranked fifth in the nation. But behind four-time Olympic hammer thrower and Ashland head coach Jud Logan, the Eagles have become particularly known for their throwers. Of the 12 men’s weight throw finalists at the indoor championships on Friday, five were from Ashland.
“That’s the reason why I came to Ashland,” Loughney said of his coach, who is in his 18th season at Ashland and his seventh as head coach. “I turned down many Division I schools to come to Ashland. … I basically just knew of the program and how successful Jud had been, and I emailed him, and it was off to the races from there.”
Logan credits the program’s success to passion as well as outworking and “out-sciencing” its competition.
“I’ve visited 27 countries, competed in four Olympic Games, three world championships,” said Logan, who competed in the 1984, 1988, 1992 and 2000 Games. “All of those countries that I went to, I learned something form everywhere I went. So what I try to explain to recruits is, I have this huge road map of success.”
Logan also thrives by finding hidden gems, like Loughney, who are sometimes overlooked.
Although Loughney was a four-time high school All-American — twice in weight throw, twice in hammer throw — for Tri-Valley Central School, he is considered short for a hammer thrower.
“I am 5-10 on a good day,” Loughney contends (Logan goes with 5-foot-9). Elite hammer throwers are usually closer to 6-2 or 6-3.
So while Loughney had his share of Division I offers, he was passed over by several schools as well. Even Ashland, which recruits mostly in Ohio, didn’t come after him. Rather, he came after the school — or, more precisely, after Logan.
“He sent me an email, and he wanted to be a great hammer thrower,” Logan said. “He just went to what he thought were the five best hammer coaches in the United States, and I’m the only one who called him back.
“I saw video of him and said ‘Yes, I want you.’”
It was a decision that has worked out brilliantly for both parties. Loughney arrived on campus with visions of national championships in his head. After redshirting as a freshman, he went and backed it up.
“(He) just kind of keeps his nose to the grindstone, keeps his head down, goes about his business,” Logan said. “But when it’s time to put in extra work, he’s the guy that … he’s still there and you thought he went home.
“He’s got that blue collar work ethic that you just absolutely love about throwers.”
On Friday, Loughney completed one of his season goals by winning the NCAA weight throw title and getting 10 points for his team. But ultimately, his focus all season has been on his event that is also competed at the Olympic Games.
“The hammer throw is my No. 1 priority,” he said. “The weight throw is something that I picked up maybe once a week in practice and throw.”
Loughney is in a good position to qualify for the Olympic Trials, and with Logan’s guidance, he is hoping that is just the beginning of his next journey.