When Ansley Diaz decided to throw the discus after basketball season, no one saw any reason to alert the media. Why would they? She was new to the sport, and Holy Innocents’ track is a ‘no-cut’ outfit, so as long as she didn’t break anything, why worry?
So she showed up. Again and again.
Anyway, the distance coaches always stood across the track some 100-plus feet away, so whenever Ansley would let one fly, they had no reason to flinch. Occasionally they’d hear a clang as she tossed one into the soccer post, but other than that, nothing got hurt.
The season wore on as they always do; meets came and went. Ansley scattered the discus world with nothing short of mediocrity, and at practice, the coaches were still in no danger. Occasionally, though, in the background, they’d hear a discus landing behind them. Just a bit closer. And closer.
Then came postseason – top four in each event go to state. Ansley’s expectations were to throw that heavy frisbee for all she was worth, retrieve it, then wait for her year-end banquet invitation. Yes, that was supposed to be all, folks.
With nothing to lose, she toed the line and threw – and made the state cut by literally an inch. Some coaches were in the tent when she ran in all excited. She called her mother; put her on hold while running off to get her medal. Her smile alone powered the Hoover Dam.
Moving on, in the week between region and state her coach was called into spring football. So there she was at practice. Alone. Still, she would spin and throw, then walk. Pick up the disc. Walk back. Throw again. Other coaches would occasionally come over and give her advice. Some knew nothing about the discus; they simply stood and watched.
At the state meet last weekend, Ansley was seeded 16 out of 16. She told her mother her goal was not to finish last. She didn’t. To give you some discus throwing logistics: sixteen qualifiers take three throws each before the field is cut to nine. The ones remaining then play for all the marbles.
Ansley’s first throw was 12 feet farther than she’d ever thrown in her life. She made the cut - again. Excited as before, she was told by the head coach that if she could somehow just beat one person of the final nine, just one, she could stand on the podium, get her name called out, have a medal put around her neck.
So in the finals she threw again, still farther than she’d ever thrown; ninety-nine feet, one inch to be exact. All six of her efforts were good for a PR – her last by 16 feet.
When the final results were tallied, she finished fifth – fifth in state after barely making it out of region, after nobody noticed she came out for track to begin with.
There were a lot of big smiles while she stood on that stage. It’s a classic story – flimsy water hitting unbending rock day after day. Eventually, the water wins. Take that bullies. Take that talent. Many coaches don’t check that box – the one where you just pick up that heavy disc day after day and you just keep throwing and picking it up and throwing it again – alone or with people, rain or shine or who cares?
As the facts go, next year she plans on playing basketball again, then joining track afterwards. All the uniforms will be ready to hand out; she’ll get hers.
Only difference is, next year when she’s practicing throwing, the coaching staff better be prepared to duck. After all, she really might break something.