Track and Field The success Thomas Stone senior Amy Bilmanis has had throwing the discus is evidence that excelling in the event has a lot more to do with technique and quickness than it does brute strength.
"I don't have the size some other people might have," said Bilmanis, one of the nation's best high school discus throwers, who is 5 feet 5, 150 pounds. "So I have to have quick feet and use my speed to get the throw out there."
Two weeks ago, Bilmanis capped one of the most prolific throwing careers in Maryland history by capturing the Class 4A discus championship. Bilmanis won the state discus title in all four of her high school seasons, setting the 4A and 3A records, and in the fall, she'll enroll at the University of Virginia.
In April, Bilmanis won the Penn Relays title, and next week she will be defending her national championship at the Nike Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, N.C. Her career-best throw is 159 feet 3 inches, which she achieved last month. Only one boy in Maryland, North Carroll's Tim Wunderlich, had a better throw this season.
Bilmanis has a track and field pedigree -- her father and coach, Andy, was jumper for the University of Maryland in the 1970s, her brothers Andy Jr. and Tim were both standouts at Thomas Stone -- Bilmanis has been competing in the sport since she was 8, and has been a thrower since she was 10.
That dedication has been key, as she has developed her technique, including the angle of her arm, the placement of her feet and the use of her lower body to create the needed energy.
The key attribute to her success is quickness, which allows her to create enough torque to allow the discus to go its furthest.
"I feel like my steps [as she spins in the throwing circle] are the most important," Bilmanis said. "I get a lot of my strength from my legs. I have a smaller radius than some of the other girls, and I had to overcome that."
In the end, a smooth release is important so that the discus can cut through the air. That, too, comes from work on the angle of the arm and the placement of the discus on the hand.
"You don't want it to flutter at all," Bilmanis said. "It should just go through the sky as flat as it can be."