Linkul advances in hammer throw
graduate, works on his hammer throw at Carson High|Tribune News Service|.
Three years ago, it’s doubtful Robert Linkul would have bet on his chances of becoming a world class hammer thrower. It probably would have been even money whether he would become a hammer thrower or hammerhead shark wrestler.
That was pretty much the extent of his knowledge of this track and field event at the time.
“I had no idea what the hammer was until I got into college,” Linkul said. “So, to be able to pick it up and have some small amount of success, it’s a lot of fun.”
Linkul, a 1999 Whittell High School graduate who now lists Carson City as home, is having plenty of fun with the newfound event and more than a small amount of success as he prepares for his junior season at Sacramento State University. Enough that he is knocking on the door of becoming a national level thrower.
“Nothing special yet, but I’m doing OK,” Linkul said. “I’m looking forward to throwing far and I’m at a school now that gives me the opportunity to do that.”
His lifetime best mark of 189 feet, 1 inch set at Davis in May of last year, puts him within striking distance of qualifying for a trip to the NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships in 2003. As an added incentive, the championships will be held at Sacramento State’s Hornet Field.
“Oh, yeah. I’d like to be there. That would be great. It’s (NCAA Championships) at our place. We’ve got a new ring that’s a world class throwing facility now,” he said. “My goal is to throw 200 feet. I need 202-5. That’s the mark (to qualify). Hopefully, I can get there, but it’s going to take some doing.”
Mike Louisiana of Carson City, a NCAA discus champion for BYU in 1971, believes Linkul is capable of having success for some time to come.
“Bob is still only 22 years old, so he could have another 10, 15 years of throwing,” said Louisiana, who coaches Linkul. “So we want to look at the 2004 Games in Athens, 2008 in China, and then 2012.”
The U.S. Olympic Trials were held at Sacramento State in 2000 and will return in 2004. That’s a major incentive for the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Linkul.
“That’s the ultimate goal. I have a lot of room (for improvement). I need to get a lot stronger. That will help a lot. I look at some of those other guys; they’re all real big and thick and putting up a lot of weight,” he said.
Size and strength are helpful, but the event requires more than brute strength.
“To throw the hammer, you’ve got 16 pounds going around you, or 8 pounds, 9 ounces if you’re a woman, and to control that and to throw a distance within the sector, you’ve got to be a good athlete,” Louisiana said. “You’ve got to be strong, you’ve got to have good agility, you’ve got to have good balance.”
It all makes the event sound intimidating. Not so, says Linkul.
“The intimidating part is coming into these meets and throwing against McMann and Ingalls and these guys who are capable of throwing 260 feet,” he said. “They have bad throws that fly over what I’m doing, so I was intimidated the first few meets I saw them. Competing as a redshirt last year, I saw them every weekend and so I kind of got used to just watching them throw far and trying to throw like they do.”
He also had a chance to throw with national-class athletes last summer when the Nevada Throwers Club hosted a series of all-comers meets. Kevin McMahon’s throw of 246-0 at the Silver State Games at Spanish Springs High School ranked as the second best mark in the U.S. in 2002. Jerry Ingalls threw 232-7 in the same meet, 19th best in the U.S. for the year.
“Throwing with McMann and all those guys got me really pumped up,” said Linkul, who threw 188-11 during a summer meet at Spanish Springs. “Before the club, we had nowhere to throw the hammer in Nevada, so there was no reason to come back here and compete. Now it’s great to be able to come back here and throw in our back yard.”
Linkul and the Sacramento State Hornets are scheduled to compete on Feb. 8 at the University of Nevada’s Wolf Pack Invitational indoor meet at the Reno Livestock Events Center.
He enjoys the opportunity to come back home and train with Louisiana at Carson High School.
“We don’t have a lot of places to throw the hammer. It’s a battle sometimes, but fortunately, here at Carson High School, Glenn Adair has let us do the hammer out here, so we might eventually come here and start throwing,” Louisiana said.
Linkul was a three-time zone champion and a state runner-up finisher in the discus at Whittell, then went on to throw at Mesa (Ariz.) and American River College (Sacramento). He first began to throw the hammer at Mesa.
“It just kind of happened,” he said. “When I got to Mesa, my coach told me, ‘You’re not built to be a discus thrower. I’m going to make you a hammer guy.’ I threw the discus ever since I was in fifth grade and now the tables are kind of turned.
“I love it. The buildup of the momentum and everything. Sometimes you eat it pretty hard, but it’s fun, and now I’ve moved on to the hammer.”
Track and field notes … UCS Spirit will host its annual National Pole Vault Summit Friday and Sunday at the Hilton in Reno. The Summit’s opening ceremony will be held Friday at 9 a.m. and the day’s activities will be capped off by the elite vaulters competition starting at 7:30 p.m. in the theater. Stacy Dragila and Nick Hysong, gold medal winners at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, will be among the featured athletes. The clinic will continue Saturday with competition for college, high school and open athletes. … The Nevada Throwers Club will host an officials certification clinic on Feb. 23 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Reno High School. For more information, call Louisiana at (775) 883-2412.
Note: Adding some more Tahoe flavor, the Sacramento State men’s roster also includes former South Tahoe sprinter Jake Hurwitz. Interestingly enough, the former South Shore rivals occasionally run sprints together these days. Does Linkul keep up?
“Jake is real fast, so I just kind of watch him run away from me,” Linkul said, chuckling. “Jake kind of came out of nowhere. Nobody expected him to be much, but he’s one of our keys there. He and Jonathan Davis are pretty much our two better sprinters now.”
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