Verhamme vies to break school shot put record
May 16, 2019
On the brisk afternoon of May 10, shot put throwers from Haines, Juneau-Douglas, and Thunder Mountain high schools lined up obediently as a field coach shouted the names of who was on deck and who was in the hole. Most of the boys looked nervous and stood more or less still, patiently waiting their turn-most, except for 15-year-old Wesley Verhamme, Haines' best thrower.
In sweatpants and a sweatshirt with his hood pulled up, Verhamme jogged around the field, did jumping jacks, squats, stretched, indifferent to the funny looks he might get from the other athletes. Two weeks ago, on a chilly day at the Juneau meet, Verhamme had done the same thing, which he said, made him look like "a mad man warming up." In Juneau the technique brought him good luck: he broke Brandon Haxton's 2012 shot put record of 45 ft. 2.5 in.
"I remember in third grade I saw (Haxton) throw a throw like that at the Haines meet. He's the one that got me throwing. I saw him throw that when he was a senior, and I said I wanted to do that," said Verhamme.
When the field coach called Verhamme's name, he peeled off his sweat pants, already flushed from exertion, and launched the shot put 45 ft. 4.5 in.-surpassing Haxton's throw, inching towards the Haines school record of 50 ft. 2 in, Verhamme throwing about 10 ft. farther than any of his competitors that day.
It was good news for Verhamme in more ways that one. Before throwing, he had made a deal with his teammate and best friend, 16-year-old Haley Boron: if he broke his personal record, she would go to prom with him.
"I said yes, but I would go with him anyway. It's cheaper if you go with someone," said Boron.
Boron said that going to prom together is just good economics, but also, the two are best friends.
"He has really pushed me to be the best athlete I can be," she said.
Boron finished in the womens 100-meter race last weekend, and ranked third among girls in shot put and discus. Two weeks ago in Juneau, she broke her personal record for the 100-meter, running it in 13.8 seconds.
Boron said she was relaxed at the home meet. "I know the place. I know that track. And we have the whole community supporting us," she said.
Sixteen-year-old Becca Wheeler said she felt more support too. Wheeler sat with her parents and boyfriend before warming up with Boron for the shot put and discus events.
"It's so supportive, everyone being here and it's prom weekend, which is a really fun weekend," said Wheeler, who is the head of the prom committee and coordinated decorations for the "Roaring 20s" theme.
"Is it gonna be better than last year?" Boron asked Wheeler.
"Oh yeah," said Wheeler.
Then both girls broke their personal records in shot put and discus. Wheeler finished second place in discus and first place in shot put. She is ranked second in shotput among all high school girls in Southeast.
Haines runners showed off their speed running on the home track: Carson Crager got first place in the 300-meter hurdles; Siyel George and Kirby Faverty got first and second places in the 1600-meter; the womens team got second place in both the 100-meter and 200-meter races.
Fourteen-year-old Avery Williamson is Haines' fastest female 200-meter runner. With a personal record of 28 seconds, Williamson is close to breaking the school's 200-meter record of 27.30 seconds. Over the past few meets, Williamson seems to be overcoming her fear of her biggest competitor: the best regional runner in her division, Trinity Jackson, made possible, in part by her talking to Jackson.
"She was like, 'How are you feeling?' And I said I was nervous," said Williamson, "I said, 'Do you even get nervous?' Because she always looks so cool and calm and collected. She said, 'Oh, I get nervous."
Learning that her competitor felt nervous was encouraging, said Williamson.
"She's really nice and I think it's good having her, even if I'm slower than her, because that's what I need to beat," said Williamson.
The Glacier Bears will compete in Juneau for regionals on May 17 and 18. They will compete in Palmer for all-state on May 24 and 25.