It was 90 degrees Tuesday afternoon and most members of the Chesapeake track team already had hit the showers.
Yet Mattie Cymek, garbed in a sweat shirt and pants, still was tossing a shot put under the watchful eye of Coach Kyle Goss. Before she graduates, the junior might just prove that softball doesn't have dibs on the county's best female hurlers.
Just three days earlier in the county track meet, Cymek had shattered the 14-year-old county discus record (121 feet, 10 inches) with a toss of 142-10 on only her second attempt.
The throw would have been good enough for second place on the boys side -- Old Mill champion Brian Evans threw 144-5 -- and it stands as the state's second-longest, with Westminster's Shirl Dorsey (147-1) having set the standardin 1985.
"I had just thrown a 130 on my first throw, and I re-entered the circle with a fresh mind. My thoughts were to work the back of the circle," said Cymek, who is a B-average student. "I knew if I accomplished that, it would all come together. I saw it go and I thought maybe 138 -- but when they read the distance, I was like, 'That was incredible.' "
Cymek also won the shot put in 37-9 1/2, shy of her personal record 38-8, accomplished in the season's first meet.
That's not bad, considering that two years ago, Cymek had never met head coach John Gray and didn't know anything about the shot put or discus.
"My sophomore year I was going to go out for softball, but Mr. Gray came to me and asked me to go out for track," Cymek said. "Ididn't even know about the events, shot and discus, but if they asked me to run, I probably would have run."
Cymek was a county runner-up in both events last year. In the state meet, she was third in thediscus and fourth in the shot.
"I first saw her running cross country. I could see that she had strong legs and she was agile and quick," Gray said. "She's got strength, agility and coordination. Not only is she strong but she's very flexible and she's aggressive. She hasa lot of potential as far as college if she can continue to discipline herself to go through some of the boring parts."
So while her classmates are getting ready for the upcoming prom or otherwise havingfun, Cymek is doing "the boring stuff" under Goss' scrutiny.
Thisyear, Cymek averaged 16 points per game and was a solid rebounder asa power forward on the basketball team. She's played basketball since she was 7 and softball since sixth grade, but might give up both toconcentrate on hurling.
"She's an athlete. She's graceful and stylish and one of those kids that you can put in any sport and she'll do real well," Goss said. "But we think we've found what she's best at."
Cymek admits having trouble focusing on her regimen with the spring's extracurricular activities coming up. Her special-order prom dress arrived the night before and it was too snug for her taste, though just slightly -- hence the sweat clothes on a sweltering day.
"Shot put's a little bit different -- it's more manly and it's kind ofboring. I've never been into boredom," said Cymek, whose 160 pounds are spread evenly across her 5-10 frame. "Discus flows. It's kind of fun to do. But I knew I could improve my throwing in both events. At this point, I still haven't put as much effort into the throw -- I think I've given about half, and there's a lot left."
So does Goss, whose alma mater, Penn State, already has expressed interest in Cymek.
"We'll be spending more time on the shot put for Saturday's regionals and for the states in the next two weeks. If she can win titlesin both events, she becomes a much more attractive college prospect," Goss said. "So far, she's the best in both events that I've seen inVirginia and Maryland. Technique-wise, she's far better than most anybody you'll ever see. She throws like a girl who's 190, 195 pounds.
"If she has a good day, she won't lose the discus. But she'll needa good day to win the shot put. Her primary target is Friendly's KimJohnson, last year's state champion."
Back in the shot put circle, Cymek begins another throw. Her back is to the landing area and theheavy ball is resting in her upward-facing right palm adjacent to her chin. As she starts her launch, pivoting on her right foot, her trail arm is tight against her side to take full advantage of the centrifugal release.
Thirty-five feet -- a sub-par throw for Cymek.
Goss barked: "If you throw hard, it goes shorter. If you throw faster,it goes farther."
Her next pitch is more to his liking. It soars high and goes 39 feet -- longer than any she has thrown in her previous attempts.
"That was easy," she said. "I sort of rely on Mr. Goss. He shows me what to do, and I just go out and do it."
SophomoreEd Malinowski watched in amazement.
"She's incredible. She's a natural," said Malinowski, whose discus toss of 99 1/2 was good enough for third in the county meet. "I was impressed with her talent on thefirst day of practice. She's way ahead of me."