Super Thrower Track Club focuses on shot, disc, jav, hammer, weight
They are the track and field athletes with a passion for the throwing events — shot put, discus, javelin, hammer, and weight — and they have started flocking to Oregon City in recent years.
They come from as far away as Eugene, Lincoln City, Hood River, Everett, Washington, and all points in between, drawn to work with coach Scott Skipper and the Super Thrower Track Club.
What's the attraction?
The easy explanation is that winners are attracted to winners. Those who join the Super Throwers typically have seen what Skipper has done for others before them and they want the same thing — to maximize their throwing potential and take their game to the next level.
And by "next level," that means college.
"Kids have to buy into the program, they have to buy into me, and if they do, they'll throw far," Skipper said. "There's a lot of scholarship money in track and field for kids. I don't make any promises, but if they come to me and they do what I tell them to do, they've got a good chance to get some money.
"What I like about it is the tape measure doesn't lie. And if they work, they'll see the development."
Since 2012, Skipper has worked with three Gatorade Oregon Track & Field Athletes of the Year — Oregon City's Beau Brosseau, Lakeridge's Maddie Rabing, and Sherwood's Shelby Moran. He also had 30 high school state champions and 112 state placers.
Among his current group of throwers, Oregon City's Anessa Chirgwin, South Salem's Ian Clawson, Cleveland's Daniel Coppedge, Lake Oswego's Ava David, Wilsonville's Madison Jones, Sandy's Keeley Rasmussen, and West Albany's Aiden Paul and Alyssa Walls are representing STTC at this week's USATF Junior Olympic Track & Field National Championships in Sacramento.
"This is not just a club, it's a tight-knit family," said Skipper, whose sons, Eric and Greg, also serve as assistants. "When these guys are at the same meet, they're encouraging one another. Yeah, they're trying to beat each other, but there's not a lot of animosities.
"They're working together, they're getting better together, and they're pushing each other in practice every day to be the best they can be."
Dean Crouser, the former three-time NCAA champion and seven-time All-American thrower at the University of Oregon, founded the Super Thrower Track Club in Gresham in 2001 with Mitch Crouser and Skipper as assistant coaches.
The club gave each of the three coaches an opportunity to work closely with their own kids and their friends, sharing their own first-hand experience as accomplished collegiate throwers.
About the time Mitch Crouser's son Ryan headed off to the University of Texas and Dean Crouser's son Sam and Skipper's son Greg both went to Oregon, the club went into hibernation.
"Dean stopped coaching and so did Mitch, and I got out of it until Beau Brosseau wanted some help," Skipper said. "Then I started working with Maddie Rabing from Lakeridge and then it just snowballed.
"I went from three kids in 2012 to five kids the next year, and then it went to 10 to 20 for a couple of years, and now we have 40 or more who come two or three times a week."
Skipper, who has sons Greg and Eric as assistants, holds most of the club's practices outdoors at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, followed by weight training at his state-of-the-art indoor facility on his property just up the road from Oregon City High School.
In the winter when the weather turns crummy, everything moves indoors.
"The indoor facility went up about a year and a half ago, and that's made all the difference," Skipper said. "Kids were out here training in the rain and I didn't have a place for them to lift weights, and now I do.
"The facility is nice because you're throwing into a net and you're not worried about how far it's going. Throwing into a net, you just keep working on technique and you just keep grinding and grinding. You can film the throws and change little things, and as soon as they get done throwing, then they go over and lift."
Skipper likes to compare throwing to homemade pie. Technique is a slice. Weight training in a slice. Plyometrics is a slice. Nutrition, hydration, sleep, and study habits are slices, too.
"You can keep breaking it down, but the question is: How good of an athlete do you want to be?" Skipper said. "That will determine how many pieces of pie you have in there.
"If you want to be a state champion, you might have six or seven pieces of pie. If you want to be a national champion, you might have to have 10 or 12 pieces of pie. That's the way I break it down and that's how I put it to the kids."
West Linn's Makayla Long is one of the newer Super Thrower members, joining the club last spring near the end of her sophomore season with the Lions.
Long first noticed Skipper hanging out around the throwing events at several Three Rivers League dual meets and invitationals, often chatting up some of the girls she was trying to beat.
"I saw his coaching a bunch of other kids and I was like, 'Oh, do you throw for him, too?'" Long said. "They were all like, 'Yeah,' and these were kids whose results were pretty darned good, so I figured he knew what he was doing.
"I didn't realize it was this big of a club, but I knew that all of his throwers were pretty darn successful, so I figured his club was a good place to go."
Long, runner-up to Oregon City's Chirgwin in the girls discus at the OSAA 6A track and field state championships, had worked with Skipper for about two months when STTC hosted an all-comers meet on July 12 at Clackamas Community College.
Long won the 17-18 girls discus with a personal best throw of 151 feet, 9 inches, breaking her previous PR of 145-7 set the district championships.
"Before this, I was training every day and pretty much on my own," Long said. "A lot of throwing is about 'feel,' and that's a really key thing to have. But when you can't necessarily see what you're doing, it's helpful to have someone watch and say, 'Hey, this is what you're doing. Try this instead.'
"Then you can feel that and pay attention to that and build and grow from there. That's been the biggest difference that I've noticed has been Scott pointing out little things and I'm like, 'Oh, okay, I can do that.'"
On the days Super Thrower practice starts at 9 a.m., Aiden Paul wants to be out the front door of his Albany home by 7:30 a.m. to make it to Oregon City on time.
"Right now, I drive up here twice a week," said Paul, who won the 5A boys discus state title as a sophomore this spring. "At one time, I was coming to work with Scott three times a week on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. I got to come more because I quit basketball to just focus on this."
Quit basketball? Really?
"I wasn't good at basketball," he said with a chuckle. "Not good, at all."
Paul met Skipper for the first time the summer after his seventh-grade year at North Albany Middle School when Skipper spotted him at the USATF Oregon Association Junior Olympic Championships at Jesuit High School in Portland.
"Scott came up to my family because I was doing pretty good and he told me I should come and train with his club," Paul said. "My technique was horrible back then, both the discus and shot.
"As soon as I started working with Scott, I saw lots of improvement in my technique. And if I hadn't come to Super Throwers, I wouldn't be where I am right now."
Paul went from throwing the shot 45-11 at the start of his freshman year to throwing it 54-2 and placing third in the state as a sophomore. And he went from throwing the discus 128-7 as a freshman to throwing it a personal best 176-6 to win the Centennial Invitational as a sophomore. He also won the 5A boys discus state title with a throw of 169-2 as a sophomore.
Some of the improvement Paul experienced was just the natural progression that goes with being a year old and a year stronger. But he's also pretty sure Skipper had a lot to do with it, too.
"I really think that if I stopped coming here, I wouldn't be as good as I can be," Paul said. "I think Scott's probably the best coach you can find anywhere within five hours of here. I think he's one of the best coaches on the West Coast, easily.
"And I want to go to a Division I school someday, so I think he's probably one of the only people who could possibly get me there."
Next stop: College
Sandy's Keeley Rasmussen is gearing up to jump into the next phase of her throwing career at the University of Idaho where she plans to throw shot put, discus, and hammer for the Vandals.
She has been working with Skipper since she was in the seventh grade. Her father, Dale, attended Sandy High School with Skipper, so when she showed an interest in the throws at an early age, her dad knew who to call.
Rasmussen was a three-time 5A Northwest Oregon Conference girls discus district champion with the Pioneers and a five-time state placer — four times in the discus and once in the shot put.
This summer, she set personal bests of 39-6 1/2 in the shot put, 138-1 3/4 in the discus, and 165-5 1/2 in the hammer, and qualified for the USATF Junior Olympic national championships in all three events.
"Scott has helped me a lot," Rasmussen said. "I've been able to improve about 10 feet each year on my discus throw and I think Scott's coaching has been behind a lot of my success.
"I'm just trying to get ready for college right now and working on the little things about my throw. For the hammer, it's my wind, going into my entry. In the discus, it's keeping my release straight and forward through the throw."
In searching for a college, Rasmussen considered Eastern Oregon, Montana, and Wyoming, but chose Idaho because the scholarship offer was too good to pass up and because Vandals throws coach Brett Olsen reminded her of Greg Skipper.
So, did Rasmussen find Idaho or did Idaho find Rasmussen?
"A lot of it was Scott," she said. "I wouldn't be able to get the scholarship that I got without Scott's help."
Skipper said all it took was a phone call.
"Greg used to train with Penn State coach Lucais McKay at Oregon," Skipper said. "Lucas had a graduate thrower at Idaho (Olsen) who needed throwers and was looking for kids, so I gave him a call, told him about Keeley, then Keeley called him, she sent him her information, she went on a recruiting visit and ... there it is.
"And I guess that's the thing. The college coaches have faith in me that when I say, 'Hey, this kid is good,' they know I'm not blowing smoke. They know that I know what I'm talking about and I'm not going to say a kid is good if he's not good."
Skipper also understands the ins and outs of college recruiting.
"You have to pursue the coaches in track," Skipper said. "It's not like football where the coaches come to you. Especially in track, the coaches kind of want you to come to them and sell yourself to them.
"That's what has been such a good thing for the club is that I have so many connections around the country and I can help get kids into school. I guess that's the thing I have to offer that some of the high school coaches can't. Not that they would want to do it, but I'm around it every day and I live and breath this.
"This is my life and I love getting the kids scholarship money. Anytime a kid gets some money to go to school, I count that as a success story."
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