River Hill junior Courtney Savoy likes to lighten the mood.
"She's kind of like a comical person," said sophomore Lee McDuff, a teammate of Savoy's on the Hawks' indoor track team. "She's always making jokes, and will try to put you in a good mood."
But Savoy's easy-going demeanor changes once her name is called to throw the shot put. As she walks into the circle carrying the eight-pound shot, the pressure starts to build. She is a bundle of nerves.
"I still get nervous when I throw at meets," said Savoy. "I don't perform at my best all the time because I get really nervous. At practice I throw a lot better."
Savoy is favored today to successfully defend her Howard County indoor shot put title at the Ivan Walker Championships at the 5th Regiment Armory. She has won every county meet this season, and threw 36-3 at the Pangaea Meet in December to tie the all-time county indoor record.
Still, Savoy doesn't consider the season a success. "I guess it's been average," she said. "Not the best."
Savoy recognizes a good performance when she sees one, but when it comes to judging herself, expectations go way up.
"I put too much pressure on myself," Savoy said. "I'm always the person that has to do good. I guess I'm a perfectionist."
Savoy began throwing the shot put and the discus during the outdoor season of her freshman year. Outdoor coach Melissa Bondi suggested trying the events to Savoy, who was looking for something more exciting and popular. Savoy finished second in the shot and fourth in the discus in the county championship and decided she could make a name for herself.
Savoy set a county indoor meet record last year in the shot with a throw of 35-3. She finished third in the county outdoor championship.
This year, River Hill indoor coaches Todd Wright and Norm Belden have tried many techniques to reduce Savoy's nervousness in meets.
"We've been trying to help her to not to worry about anybody else but herself," said Wright, who works with shot-putters. "What she perceives as a bad meet is when someone comes close to beating her. In the past she has been beating these girls by a lot, and now they've gotten a little closer. She sees people starting to move up and she gets overly concerned about it."
At meets, Savoy enjoys talking with her competitors. In fact, ask Savoy what's the most fun about throwing the shot put, and she'll say those talks.
"I think it's waiting for your turn, and talking with the girls from the other schools," said Savoy, who is a member of the Columbia Express track team in the summer. "It's not that much fun to throw it, really."
But Savoy does throw it well.
"She has very good, sound technique, and really works hard," said Wright.
And technique is the key to a shot-putter's success.
"If you mess up on your form, you can have a really bad throw," said Savoy, who also serves as a teacher and mentor to younger shot-putters on the team. "It's not the strength at all."
Because she gets so nervous at meets, Wright said Savoy "sometimes doesn't concentrate as much as she does in practice. It's an obstacle I think she has to overcome and I think she has gotten better over the season."
Belden said Savoy "has gotten immensely better" handling her nervousness this season.
And Savoy, who has been battling back pain and spasms recently, knows the better she can handle the nerves, the better performances she will have.
Pub Date: 2/02/99