Thrower moving up in Big Ten

BY BEN SCHUFF | APRIL 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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Ben Stancombe said he feels “so much further” ahead two meets into this outdoor season compared with last year. His results prove him right.

The hammer thrower had a career day at the Sun Angel Classic this past weekend. He landed a personal best of 197 feet, 6 inches in Tempe, Ariz. — nearly a 12-foot improvement over his previous best.

But a year ago, that kind of distance wasn’t attainable. The sophomore required surgery for a cartilage tear in his right shoulder in December 2009. The result was missing three months of training and all of the 2010 indoor season.

“I had bones rubbing together [in my shoulder],” Stancombe said. “It was pretty painful up until I had surgery.”

Despite the missed time, he qualified for the 2010 NCAA West Regional at the end of the outdoor season and placed 41st. While throws coach Scott Cappos hopes for more out of Stancombe, Cappos said making it that far as a freshman was a good start.

“It’s a good accomplishment. It’s not what we wanted, but it’s a good first step,” Cappos said.

“Ideally, we’d like to have him ready and throw better at the Big Ten meet, but I think the surgery kind of affected how well he did [at the Big Ten meet].”

Currently, Stancombe has his sights set on this year’s Big Ten championships. Cappos and head track and field coach Larry Wieczorek expect improvement over Stancombe’s 18th-place finish at last year’s meet. A top-six finish is in line at this year’s Big Tens, Cappos said.

The Bloomington, Ind., native is making his way up the Big Ten ranks with just over a month to go before Iowa hosts the conference meet, on May 13-15. While Stancombe’s best toss last year ranked as high as 16th in the conference, his throw last weekend ranks fifth in the Big Ten and is the farthest mark for an Iowa thrower this year.

“That was a real big [personal best] for him,” Wieczorek said. “If he can keep going, he should be in the low 200-foot range.”

Stancombe credited a change in the workouts for his performance at Arizona State. Instead of going through normal workouts April 4 and 5 that involve throwing the competition weight of 16 pounds, Cappos had Stancombe throwing a heavier weight — 17.6 pounds.

“A lot of times in the throwing events, we’ll throw heavier hammers to slow the athlete down and work on technique,” Cappos said. “It also builds strength, so those were the two things we focused on last week, and it seemed to work well.”

Continued improvement with his technique will be crucial as the schedule moves closer to Big Tens. Cappos said Stancombe worked on moving as a unit as well — he sometimes gets ahead of the ball and gets out of the ideal position in which the ball is centered with his body.

“I have to rely on technique and speed more,” said Stancombe, who, standing at 5-10 and 215 pounds, is an undersized thrower. “I feel like I’m going to keep on improving throughout the year and keep on making gains every week and every meet.”

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