Emma MacCallum, a Gray-New Gloucester student, is looking forward to a victorious season in shot put.
Gray-New Gloucester senior Emma MacCallum has found life lessons in the shot put.
“Sometimes it’s not about how far you throw, it’s about like being in the moment and having fun and being nice to everyone around you,” MacCallum said, “and just enjoying the moment. So even if you don’t throw what you wanted on that day, it’s more important that you’re just there and you enjoy it and you have fun.”
Those lessons paid off in February when MacCallum won the Class B indoor track and field state championship.
“I really think that’s something that helped me. Don’t, like, stress too much,” MacCallum said.
In the past, MacCallum had a habit of messing with her own head. One bad throw had the power to ruin her entire day. Early on at last year’s outdoor state championships, she fouled “on a really good throw,” and was so upset that she was doomed for the remainder of the meet (though she did finish a solid fourth).
“She would take herself out of it,” Gray-NG throwing coach Jeff Amos, a volunteer assistant, said. “One bad warm-up throw, and that was the end of it. You could see it in her face. I’d just cross my fingers and hope that first one was decent.”
The 2016 outdoor championships were an eye-opener for MacCallum, and spurred her to work on improving her mindset.
And, at the indoor track and field championships at Bates College on Feb. 18, MacCallum focused solely on herself. She didn’t even watch her fellow shot put competitors.
“Out of all my state championship (meets), that was probably the one where I was the most calm,” she said. “I’m a very emotional person, and when I throw I tend to get really anxious, but I just told myself, if you just stay calm, you’ll do fine. So I just tried to center myself.
“So, winning was awesome.”
MacCallum carries that winning feeling into the outdoors, where she will compete in shot put, discus and javelin.
“It brings a lot of confidence,” she said. “I am really excited to come into this outdoor season and try to do the best I can with all three events, but I would love to repeat my state championship.
“I know it’s possible now, so I just gotta keep pushing for it.”
‘She’s a grinder’
MacCallum joined the outdoor track and field team the spring of her freshman year as a means to stay in shape for field hockey.
“I thought I was going to sprint, but we really quickly realized, ‘Wow, she’s bad at that,’” MacCallum said.
Soon, she moved over to the throws. She wasn’t great there, either — at first.
“Let’s just say she wasn’t the most talented, natural athlete that’s ever graced a circle before,” Amos said. “Some people show up and they can just do it from Day 1. That wasn’t her.”
MacCallum said she also wasn’t the most dedicated, either, that first season, often leaving practices early to get ice cream.
She joined Gray-NG’s indoor track and field team her sophomore year and finally found success in the shot put.
“I just realized that I really love winning,” MacCalllum said with a laugh. “So, I was like, I’m willing to buckle down if I can get some more of this great feeling.”
The more she worked, the better she got. As a junior, MacCallum placed fifth at the indoor championships and fourth at the outdoor championships. Then came the indoor state title earlier this year.
“She’s among the hardest workers I’ve ever seen,” Amos said.
“She’s kind of gone from someone that had no chance of placing in any meet, even a dual meet, to winning the Class B state championships — it’s really a testament to her effort. She’s a grinder.”
Track and field coaches and athletes often talk about beating themselves and setting new personal records. The objective is to always be getting better. Another great life lesson, of course. But what MacCallum calls a “miracle throw” has been looming over her since her junior indoor season.
On Jan. 29, 2016, in Gorham, MacCallum threw the shot put 36 feet, 3½ inches.
“I threw 36, coming from a PR of about 31,” she said. “I mean, it was awesome. I was like, ‘I’m the best.’ But coming off of that was really hard, because it literally was one of those throws that it was a miracle, I don’t know how it happened.”
“It was so unattainable afterwards,” she adds.
Instead of that being the New MacCallum, it ended up being an aberration — or, better put, a hint at her potential. But, at that point, she wasn’t quite a 36-3½ thrower.
That distance put a bit of a cloud over the 2016 outdoor season for MacCallum — it’s tough going such a long stretch of time without a PR.
But she’s continued to build her strength and improve her form — she credits Amos’ coaching — and now consistently throws 36 feet. Her state-championship winning throw was 36-3, only a half-inch short of her PR. She’s surpassed 36-3.5 in practice, but hasn’t done so yet in a meet.
“I’m still chasing it. But it’s coming soon,” MacCallum said.
She’s hopeful that it comes early in the season. Then, thereafter, every incremental improvement will be a new PR.
“Her average throw has gone up and up and up,” Amos said, “and now her average throw is right at her personal best. So, outdoor (season), she’s primed to throw quite a bit farther.”
Adding to MacCallum’s excitement about the outdoor season is that she’ll be able to give the shot put and the other throws (she also competes in discus and javelin) a majority of her focus.
MacCallum is part of the international baccalaureate program at school, and after testing in a few weeks, the majority of the school portion of her senior year will be over.
“Once I don’t have to worry about the academics anymore, I’m going to have so much fun with track,” she said. “I’m really looking for just a fun season. And some accomplishments.”
Next year, she’ll attend either Colby or Trinity, and will continue to throw at either school.
After that, she can see herself becoming a throwing coach.
And to think, she only joined the track team to stay in shape for field hockey.
“It’s turned into literally my favorite thing that I do — my favorite extracurricular,” MacCallum said. “I love it.”