OAKLAND — First, there was the matter of finding a toe board. Then someone had to tape that to the gym floor. Then someone would measure out seven feet, and with a little imagination, the Messalonskee High School track and field team had its own shot put circle.
Thanks to Emily Steinmeyer, it’s a little different this season. Steinmeyer, a sophomore, built a shot put circle in her Tech Trades (wood shop/architecture) class after a conversation she had with assistant coach Tracey Frost.
“Frost and I were just talking at Bowdoin one day, and we were just like, âWell, this would be great if we had one,'” Steinmeyer said. “I said, âI have Tech Trades. Let’s do it.’ So he went out and bought the wood, and I volunteered all my time to just make it up. I think it’s almost as good as the ones we throw on at colleges.”
Steimeyer isn’t over-stating or bragging. Frost believes the same thing.
“We intentionally went out and bought the good materials,” Frost said. “The teacher that assisted Emily in making it (Bill Smith) is top-notch. And you know what? I’ll take anything that’s student-made. She’s invested in this. I just keep now trying to convince her that she needs to put her name on it somewhere. She hasn’t done it, but that’ll happen before the end of the season.”
“When you want to picture the circle in your head while you’re just throwing on the floor, you can’t really get the actual measurements right because it’s hard when you’re trying to throw at the same time,” Steinmeyer said. “It’s much easier to throw out of it than it is to visualize it.”
It’s also a small step toward solving a problem that seems to be affecting all schools in one way or another: How to provide a great experience for student-athletes while still meeting a budget. By thinking outside the box, Steinmeyer was able to provide something for the school that otherwise probably would have been deemed too expensive.
“It would have been probably close to $1,000 — maybe more,” Frost said. “Right now, with everything, we have less than $300 invested into this. So it saved the school district a ton of money. We would never have had this if she couldn’t have made it.”
The circle is actually two large pieces of wood. With a couple burly assistants and some bungee cords, it takes less than five minutes to form a square block, with the shot put circle covering most of the surface and the toe plate already attached. Steinmeyer also added hazard tape around the border, because the circle sits about an inch and a half off the ground.
“It seems so simple, but for a really good track program, it’s really critical,” Frost said. “You want to compete in the same conditions that you’re practicing on. Standing in the middle of the gym floor with athletic tape just doesn’t make the impact with the athletes that having a piece of equipment like this does.”
Steinmeyer said the process took her about four to six weeks, and she finished a week before the start of the outdoor season. It didn’t take long for Frost to start thinking about what his throwers could have done in the indoor season with the circle.
“We are so competitive now with throwing, which we haven’t been in the past,” Frost said. “In the indoor, Damon Bickford beat the school record by nearly 10 feet without even the benefit of this. It would have been a lot more, if we could have had something like this. Emily missed our school record by one inch. If we could practice with this type of thing every day, she’d have shattered it this year.”
“You actually get a feel of what it’s like in a meet,” Bickford said. “You get the general area, so when you go into a meet, you’re not totally surprised about the distance. So you know how to enter the circle, how to back out of the circle. You’re more familiar with it.”
Word has gotten around about the circle, and coaches from other sports at Messalonskee will stop Steinmeyer in the hallways and compliment her on the circle. She’s also received a couple requests to build cabinets at the school.
“A lot of the throwers were — I don’t want to say praise me — but it is good to know that people support me in what I did and like what I did,” Steinmeyer said. “I just really appreciate all the positive comments I’ve got from it.”