By Michael Davison
Globe Sports Writer
During most track practices, every group of athletes have their own workout areas.
For example, runners are on the track while jumpers work around the pits. But Joplin High School's throwers are a little farther removed than usual ... try a couple of miles away.
The throwers work out at the high school while the rest practice at Junge Field.
"We can get started quicker," junior Emily Jones said. "It takes about a half an hour to get over to Junge. Plus I think coach (Kevin) Sadler likes it better at the high school."
But on Wednesday, the final day of practice before the state meet, all of Joplin's qualifiers were together at Junge.
"At state, you're about as close to the other competitors as you can get," Jones said. "Today, that's what it's like here."
As she made the statement, Amber Harbin, one of the Eagle runners hollered some encouragement.
Jones qualified for the right to throw the shot put and discus at the MSHSAA Class 4 Track and Field Championships in Jefferson City. She will compete in the shot put at 2 p.m. today and the discus at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Given the choice of shot put or discus, Jones prefers the shot. But her coaches remind her how well she could do in the discus. The difference is in the technique.
"I can do well in the shot with just brute strength," said Jones, a 6-foot-1 junior. "But someone much smaller than I can beat me (in the discus if) she has better technique."
Now that she's qualified to state, she's made an adjustment in her technique throwing the discus. She used to step with her left foot, now she's hopping onto it.
"It's to get my feet around quicker, then I get more hips and legs into the throw and better technique," Jones said. "If I get a good release, I can throw it 120 feet."
But her "brute strength" has carried her to state, and Jones set her personal record in the shot put - 40-2 3/4 - at the sectional Saturday at Rolla.
"Emily refuses to back down," said Stephanie Lloyd, one of Joplin's throwing coaches. "She's just a great competitor.
"Each year by conference, district and state, she really steps up. She usually isn't ranked, but she digs down deep and has been in the top four."
Jones is making her third trip to state in the shot put and second in the discus. Classmate Grant Garwood, however, earned his first spot at state in the shot put. This is his first season on the varsity.
"I think there's less pressure this week," Garwood said. "From district to sectional, you have to do better to have a shot at the next week.
"Now, I'm already there, so I just have to throw. The key for me is finishing and getting out over the toe board."
While Garwood has recovered from a hip flexor injury aggravated during wrestling season, Jones took the winter off from competition, deciding not to play basketball. Instead she lifted weights and worked on technique.
"I'm a lot faster and quicker," she said. "I'm getting more push off my legs.
"When you start a new season, coaches want you start from where you left off. In the past I didn't, but this year I got to practice more in the offseason and I didn't start off where I was. In the shot, I was better."
Lloyd thinks whoever throws 40 feet in the shot put will win, but 39 or more should earn all-state honors.
By Michael Davison