Aiming high

New Town senior Maketa Ruffin has used her prowess in martial arts and basketball to aid her performance in the discus and shot put

Girls track and field

May 23, 2007|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun Reporter

Maketa Ruffin sets some pretty high goals for herself.

By the time she goes to college next fall, the New Town senior wants to throw the discus 150 feet and hurl the shot put 45 feet.

Reaching those goals during summer competition with the Randallstown Track Club would put her in some pretty distinguished company. The area records for the high school season are 160 feet, 5 inches for the discus and 44 feet, 1 1/4 inches for the shot put.

But Ruffin has proved she can make progress quickly. In her first track experience with the Randallstown club during the summer of 2005, she qualified for nationals in the javelin.

Last spring, in her first season of high school track, she won the Class 1A North regional championship in discus and shot put and then won silver medals in both at the state meet.

And last weekend, Ruffin won the regional title in both events.

"I had some high goals," said Ruffin, 17. "I didn't meet some of them, but I did meet some of them and I approve of that. I know I can do better, and I will do better."

New Town coach Morgan Lisby said those goals might be a little high for Ruffin, but that's OK.

"It's good to set your sights high," Lisby said. "Even if you don't hit such a lofty goal, you're going to hit something better than where you started.

"That 45, I don't think that's going to happen. The plus side is she's just gotten into the sport and she's not been coached thoroughly, so I think she does have a high potential to throw far."

Ruffin, a longtime basketball player and a first-degree black belt in Shotokan karate, didn't get serious about track until this spring.

Since March, she has improved her distances in both events. She threw the discus 112-4 at the Baltimore County finals May 12, a personal record that broke her New Town record. In the shot put, she threw 34-5, also a personal and school record.

Ruffin won county titles in both events this spring after finishing fourth a year ago. She still has a long way to go to match the area's top high school distances, but that just motivates her more.

"Last year, I played around a lot. I wasn't real serious," Ruffin said. "This year, I'm like, `I'm going to do my best. I'm going to come to every practice. I'm going to give 120 percent instead of 110 percent,' and it worked out really good. I felt the improvement. It's one of the best feelings in the world to set a goal and achieve it."

One look at Ruffin and you can see the upper-body strength, the power in her arms and shoulders. She attributes a lot of that to karate, but not all in the way you might think.

"I used to get in trouble in karate," said Ruffin, laughing about those early days when she was just 7.

"I got in trouble for my form not being right or my belt was getting loose and my [instructor] used to tell me to do push-ups continuously. That's how I got these arms and these shoulders."

Ruffin was intrigued by karate after spotting a class in the window of a local strip mall.

Diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Ruffin was constant motion as a youngster, said her mother, Roblyn Ruffin. Her grandmother, who worked with children with ADHD, suggested that she take up sports to improve her focus rather than take medication, the teenager said, so her mother agreed to the karate lessons.

That laid the foundation for much of her success in sports, Ruffin said. She stopped karate when she started playing in several basketball leagues in middle school, but she returned to it in the past few weeks.

"Physically, it makes you stronger and it gives you a lot more endurance," she said. "Mentally, it makes you more disciplined. I'm very calm now. I don't get as mad as I used to.

"Even though I get nervous a lot during my meets and games and karate tournaments, I can think to myself, `What am I nervous for? I'm having fun and I'm trying to do my best.' I tell myself before every meet, `Do your best. Believe in yourself. Don't think negative thoughts.' Then I do good."

A starter on the Titans basketball team, Ruffin plays much taller than her 5-foot-6 height, but in the past few years track has become her favorite sport.

"Coming out of a basketball background, she had a lot of natural strengths and raw talent and ability," Lisby said. "Going into this sport with an open mind, she found her niche, the throws. Footwork is key, and that's one of the good things she brought from basketball, being light on her feet."

Ruffin, who has competed in the javelin at the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympics the past two summers, plans to continue throwing the discus and the shot put, as well as the javelin and the hammer, at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Fla.

In addition to continuing her track career, Ruffin plans to study music technology or film production. An avid fan of music videos, she would like to be a music producer or a screenwriter.

She has written a short screenplay for a class and is working on another.

Now, however, Ruffin is busy preparing for this weekend's state track championships, putting the finishing touches on what she hopes is the start of something big.

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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