The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
If there is one constant in the College of San Mateo track and field team, it is the consistency at which its throwing programs perform.
Year in and year out, the Bulldogs’ discus, hammer and javelin throwers, in addition to their shot putters, are among the best not only in the Coast Conference, but all of Northern California — and even the state.
But there is a long way to go from to the end of the season before talk can begin about who is the best. It’s early, but CSM names already litter the top Coast Conference throwers list.
“We’re just beginning to get a good feeling of the direction we’re going,” said Mike Lewis, CSM’s longtime throws coach.
If there is anyone who can help mold a raw thrower into a championship contender, it’s Lewis. In more than 40 years of coaching the throws (the last 30 at CSM), he has developed an eye for the details. A change of position here, shifting the elbow there, Lewis knows all the tricks in the book to get maximum efficiency out of a thrower.
Obviously the talent needs to be there in the athlete and, if it is, Lewis is the best man to pull it all out.
“The trick in throws is finding balance and rhythm. Then, look at strength,” Lewis said. “[The athletes] are making a choice of putting the work in. I’m just trying to sculpt what they’re trying to do.”
Lewis said the goal of any season is gradually get better as the season goes along, with the hope of making the biggest throws on the biggest stages at the end of the year.
You can’t expect to go from A to Z in only a couple of weeks, so it’s important the throwers are making strides to reach those postseason goals.
“I like to go to these (early-season) meets so they can some numbers. … (I want them to) start getting used to competing,” Lewis said. “There are a lot of practice throwers who are great. What we want to do is transfer some of our practice throws into meets.”
While CSM throwers may be the cream of the Coast Conference crop, Lewis knows there are better throw programs around the state and it is those against which Lewis judges his athletes.
“Nor Cal is always strong (in the throws). This is going to be a strong year all over California,” Lewis said. “It’s going to be tough … to make it into state.”
A stroke of luck
Community college coaches are always on the hustle to recruit players. Unlike their four-year counterparts, athletes do not officially “commit” to a community college program. As any JC coach will tell you, they don’t know for sure who is on the team until the first day of official practice.
But every now and then, the sports gods will smile upon a JC coach and drop a state-caliber athlete right in their lap.
Such was the case for the CSM women’s swim team and coach Randy Wright. He already had a returning All American in Morgan Smith, a sophomore out of El Camino, and now he expects to have another by the end of the season in Erica Vong — a freshman by way of Macau, China.
She was originally slated to swim for a college on the East Coast, but because her high school credits from Macau did not transfer to the American school, she was advised to attend community college to become eligible to transfer.
“They told her to go to community college and her uncle lives in Pacifica,” Wright explained. “We lucked out.”
When Wright received an email from Vong and told him what kind of times she posted in high school, he immediately got excited. He knew right away what kind of talent with whom he was dealing.
She has done nothing to convince him otherwise since then.
“The first time I saw her (swim), I knew she was the real deal,” Wright said. “She is already posting some of the fastest times in the state.”
And Vong is far from just dominant in one stroke. Wright can envision her swimming in upwards of eight events: the 50 and 100 free, the 100 and 200 back, “the 200 IM (individual medley) would be a good one (for her),” Wright said.
Then there are three relays: the medley relay and a pair of free events.
“She is a great all-around swimmer, but she’s dynamite in the sprints,” Wright said. “She’s fun to watch.”