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Throwing stars

Posted: May 23, 2008 1:31 a.m.
Updated: July 24, 2008 5:02 a.m.

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With the amount of success the Saugus High School girls cross country team has enjoyed over the last couple of years (two straight state titles), translating into further success with runners on the track and field team, the school's athletic identity has been its running program.

But there's a strong argument that another program at Saugus has also helped to shape the school's athletic identity.

A shot-put heavy argument.

No school this decade in the Santa Clarita Valley has had more success from its throwers than Saugus.

Case in point - the Centurions produced two throwing champions Saturday when junior Daniel Swarbrick became the CIF-Southern Section Division I shot-put champion and senior Heather Snyder was crowned the Division I discus champion.

Saugus is the only area school sending throwers to today's CIF Masters Meet at Cerritos College.

"The distance program has gotten, deservedly so, the attention, but if you go back the last seven years or so, we've had state-level throwers year in and year out, and it's by no accident," says Saugus track and field head coach Christian Standley. "It's because of (Saugus throwing coach) Art Baldi and the time he puts in."

The school has sent three boy throwers to the state championship this decade - Ryan Davis, Alex Dekok and Daniel's older brother Matt Swarbrick.

It has also sent one girl in Jeanette McConnell, with another, Katie Bedre, being a Southern Section finalist.

Snyder sent her discus 136 feet, 4 inches to win the Division I title Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.

Daniel Swarbrick tossed his shot put 59-11 1/2 to win the Division I title Saturday.

Hurling a heavy metal ball runs in the Swarbrick family, as their father was also a high school shot putter.

Daniel credits Baldi, a Saugus coach since 1998, with much of the siblings' success.

"Let me say we all owe it to Art Baldi," Daniel says. "Without him, we wouldn't be where we are today. He works us hard, respects us, and we get the job done."

It's grueling to be a thrower, says both Daniel and Snyder.

It's also underappreciated.

Both say that practice lasts up to four hours a day.

Pain strikes all points of the body.

Snyder says she goes home and still works on technique.

"The throwers at Saugus work harder than any other group," she says. "It takes a lot of commitment to be part of the throws team. I don't think a lot of people realize it."

Much of the success Saugus' track and field team has achieved this decade is related to the success of the throwers who have consistently put up points in dual meets.

Swarbrick and Snyder will compete in both the shot put and discus throw at today's Masters.

If they finish in the top five of their event with a qualifying mark, they'll earn a spot in the State Prelims next Friday at Cerritos College.

Snyder says she felt rushed in last Saturday's Southern Section Championships during her go at the shot put.

Nonetheless, her mark of 39-10 1/4 was third.

Her discus throw, however, was spot on.

"I was actually really nervous on the first throw, then I realized it was one of last times I could compete," she recalls.

"I had to relax a little bit and hit a mark that could get me on."

And it still wasn't even her personal best, which gives her hope of advancing.

Standley says she's thrown the discus 143 feet this year. As a comparison, her throw at the section finals was the third best of the day. Nipomo High's Jeanette Dewitt's discus flew 157-10.

Yet Snyder is confident.

She's been building her game since her freshman year.

She has lost 90 pounds since then, which has helped her endurance. Now she has received interest from multiple universities.

"My whole future is based on track and field," she says.

As for Swarbrick, his brother's past accomplishments have motivated him.

Matt Swarbrick is now a junior thrower at UC Davis, but he owns three throwing records at Saugus.

"Growing up, I did track and field my whole life, even though I was always second best," Daniel says. "This year I've come out and beaten what (Matt) did (in the shot put). It's pretty huge for me."

On Daniel's first two throws Saturday, he fouled.

He then threw a third that wasn't long enough.

Then a fourth - the longest launch of the event.

"I remember throwing it and recounting the lines because I wasn't sure," he says. "I've never been so happy. All my hard work has paid off. I fouled the first two, then showed I can compete. I'm worth something."

The pair showed how much their program is worth, helping to give Saugus athletics another identity.

Are its throwers still underappreciated?

Maybe not anymore.

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