Power to spare at Westminster

Track and field: Junior Kiara Adams might be short for the shot put, but her strength makes the defending state champ the girl to beat this spring in Class 3A-4A competition.

May 02, 1999|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

At just 5 feet 3, Westminster shot-putter Kiara Adams normally begins meets looking up to her opponents, the more accomplished of whom often stand nearly 6 feet tall.

Come time for the medals ceremony, however, it's those same opponents who are usually looking up to her.

In an event where a thrower's size can often be a determining factor in her outcome, the junior said it's her strength, which she's developed in her dual role as a competitive power lifter, that gives her the edge.

"Some think that being taller is an advantage, but I just make up for it with my strength," said Adams. "They're taller, but I'm physically stronger."

The results agree.

This past winter, Adams won championships at the Central Maryland Conference, Class 3A-4A East regional and Class 3A-4A state meets and also finished second in the prestigious Dickinson Invitational to earn honors as The Sun's Carroll County Indoor Track Performer of the Year. She's improved her throws an average of 2 to 3 feet from last year, and has hit the 40-foot mark several times in practice.

Now, after recuperating from a recent weightlifting injury to a hand and wrist, she appears ready to add even more gold to her trophy case. She hasn't lost to a Class 4A opponent since falling to Glen Burnie's Susan Sperduto at the first indoor meet last winter and has since defeated the senior twice.

"Shot-putting is a combination of strength, speed and coordination, and she's pretty well gifted in all three," said Westminster coach Jim Shank, who works extensively with the throwers. "She's very strong for her size, plus she's compact and quick across the circle. That makes the shot go much faster on the release."

Shank still laughs when recounting the story of her unlikely discovery.

It was about two years ago when Adams, who had previously tried out for the JV basketball team, stayed after school to make up an algebra test. As she was leaving, a friend on the track team urged her to try a couple throws, just on a whim.

While most female throwers normally start around the 23-to 24-foot range, the unknown freshman threw over 31.

"That was just on pure strength and speed," said Shank. "Anybody who can just pick the thing up and throw it that far, your eyeballs open and you say, `Hey, there's something here.' "

On an afternoon when her primary concern was determining the value of "x," the honors student -- who has a passion for playing the trombone and piano, and hopes to one day become a doctor -- wound up the newest member of the Owls' varsity track team with only three weeks left in the season.

"I picked her up from school and she said, `Mom, you're not going to believe what happened,' " recalled Kathy Adams Seay, who had unsuccessfully tried to get her daughter to try the shot put, an event Kiara felt was too obscure and tomboyish. "I knew she was strong. When her arms dropped on you they felt like 10-pound weights."

Adams' first meet was the county championships, and she won her event.

"I fell in love with it after that," she said.

About seven months ago, she also discovered another activity that she enjoyed equally as much. While working out as part of a school weight-training class, her instructor, an Olympic weightlifting coach, convinced her she possessed the natural ability to become a great power lifter.

As part of the East Coast Gold team, she finished seventh last December in the 165-pound class at the American Open in Orlando, Fla. So far, she has completed lifts of 165 pounds in the snatch -- a single motion where the weight is lifted from the floor to over the head -- and 185 in the clean and jerk -- a movement done in two motions, from the floor to the chest, and from the chest to over the head.

She's training to get below 165 pounds, which would put her at the upper end of the next lowest weight class. At her current weight, she's had to compete against girls up to 50 or 60 pounds heavier.

"I recommend [lifting] to any and all female throwers," she said. "While it's not the same movement, it takes the same strength. It's a whole-body workout. You need your legs as well as your upper body."

Shank said it's also helped her coordination and footwork.

Adams gives up a lot to train in both sports, on most days leaving for school in the morning and not returning home until 9 p.m.

"I haven't been able to hang out with my friends as much, but that comes with the territory of trying to get better," said Adams, who is described by her track coach as an intense worker in practice.

Adams said she's intent on reaching the 45-foot mark before her graduation next year, and is spending a lot of time trying to improve her footwork. Another goal is to eventually switch from her current "glide" method of throwing -- in which she leans back, takes two steps and heaves the shot -- to the spin technique, a motion that produces more speed but is normally done only by higher-level males since it requires greater strength.

Her mother said that becoming a shot put champion has raised her daughter's self esteem and given her something to be proud of.

Shank said he believes that Adams' journey to the top of the sport isn't nearly complete, and that his pupil still has plenty of room for improvement. Adams, who seldom backs down from a challenge, agrees.

"Until now, I've been running on natural ability," she said. "Now, I'm trying to push myself farther than that."

Pub Date: 5/02/99

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