'Circle’s still seven feet'
Defiance's Postema claims hammer throw crown with giant toss
LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Most people don’t lift a 16-pound field hammer and fall in love.
Defiance’s Tom Postema did three years ago and made it count Friday, winning the men’s hammer competition at the 2013 NCAA Division III Men’s Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
The senior from Defiance, Ohio, won with a top throw of 64.67 meters (212-2). Defending champion Pete Delzer, a senior from Wisconsin-Oshkosh, finished second with a throw of 61.46 meters (201-8).
Only two other competitors cleared 60 meters -- Case Western junior Harry Weintraub, who finished third with a top attempt of 61.27, and Greenville junior Josh Kuusisto, who finished fourth with a top attempt of 60.29.
Postema’s winning toss came during his first attempt in the three-throw final.
“It was pretty good,” he said. “One of my best throws ever.”
His best this year is 65.80 meters (215-10), thrown April 26 during the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Outdoor Track and Field meet. It had earned him the top ranking, which he cemented Friday at host Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Roger Harring Stadium, in the Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex.
“I started out with a nice easy throw to get me to finals and then I was able to build on that throughout and put together a few good throws,” Postema said.
His opening throw in the preliminary round was 59.02 meters. He followed with successive tosses of 62.65 and 63.57 meters before unleashing the event winner in his first finals throw. His second finals throw landed at 63.86; his last was a foul.
“Usually you have pretty good idea,” Postema said of distinguishing between good and poor throws. “Everything just kind of feels right and easy when it’s going to go far.”
Friday’s triumph wiped away memories of last year’s DIII outdoor event, when Postema finished 18th. Perhaps not bad for someone who has hurled hammers for only three years, but not up to his expectations.
“I was ranked sixth last year but I just didn’t perform well,” he said. “Just more experience at meets like this has really helped me out. I was a lot more comfortable. This is the most comfortable I’ve ever felt. I was very confident and I knew what I was capable of doing. Mentally I was just better prepared.”
This year, he stayed within his mental comfort zone, anticipating the bit of pomp that comes with an NCAA championship event and the attention it attracts. Postema said the key was to, “Forget about the extra stuff -- all the people and being escorted around everywhere. Hammer circle’s still seven feet and that’s all that matters.”
Postema’s hammer introduction three years ago came when he joined a club team. He had no clue such a thing existed -- a shot put with a steel cable and handle attached. Curious, he tried it and liked it instantly, reveling in the challenge and complexity.
“It’s a fun day every day you get to throw it,” he said, describing himself as self-taught.
Hammer throwers tend to yell when they release the implement, and some favor spinning -- or "turning" -- three times before release. Others, like Postema favor four turns.
“A million different things to go on between your lower body and upper body and it has to be perfect rhythm,” he said. “I do four turns so if you make one little mistake in your first turn it’s going to get worse each turn. You’ve really got to be right on and have good rhythm.”
Postema hopes his good rhythm extends through Saturday’s final day of competition. He’ll tackle the shot put next, and already had excelled before he picked up a hammer on Friday. During Thursday’s opening-day events, Postema finished second in the men’s discus behind reigning and three-time national champion Carter Comito. That means two All-American honors earned, with a possible third available Saturday.
Postema is ranked 13th in the shot put. He finished 17th in that event a year ago.
“Most people consider the hammer the second-most technical event behind pole vault,” Postema said. “It seems simple until you pick one up and try to throw it. The shot put and discus are relatively simple compared to that, but they’re still complex.”