Eastern New Mexico University sophomore and Clovis High grad Warren Nuckols is in his second year throwing the hammer. Photo by Kevin Wilson
By Kevin Wilson
PORTALES — Hammer throw is either …
A) a carpenter’s act of frustration,
B) what people do with a bad rap CD, or
C) a little-known track and field event for a still-young Eastern New Mexico University track squad.
For Warren Nuckols, the answer is C. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound sophomore is one of a small group of hammer throwers in the Lone Star Conference, and college track and field in general.
Nuckols and the track team are heading to Angelo State for Saturday’s Angelo Relays.
A 2002 graduate of Clovis High School, Nuckols also throws discus and shot. His introduction to the hammer came with his introduction to ENMU track and field — the event does not exist for New Mexico high schools.
“Last year, the coach asked me if I wanted to do it because nobody had ever done it before,” Nuckols said. “We had a guy who used to throw the hammer a long time ago, and he donated it.”
What was donated was a 16-pound metal ball, attached to a handle with 38 inches of wire. Nuckols said the main difference between the hammer and the discus is the setup — discus throwers only get one spin, while hammer throwers have to spin the ball three times above the head before throwing.
It’s an event that ENMU track coach Eric Boll was familiar with seeing, but from a technical standpoint.
“I’m not the best at it,” said Boll, “but I’ve got a guy who helps out with the hammer (Marv Lutnesky, a biology professor at ENMU and a former hammer thrower), but I’ve got a pretty common concept of what’s going on.”
Boll, however, gives most of the credit to Nuckols and Lutnesky for the success, noting that Nuckols has been pretty low-maintenance with the event. It was a quality that helped while Boll was overseeing a first-year track program in 2003.
“I’m really impressed with Warren,” Boll said. “I had 45 kids running around on the track doing different things (last year). I was being pulled in a bunch of different directions. I talked to Warren a little bit about technique, but didn’t get into any depth at all, and he just ran with it.”
Nuckols has been throwing the hammer for the past two seasons, but admits that it will probably take all of his eligibility for him to get the event down.
“I think it’s one of the hardest events to learn because a 16-pound ball going around your head kind of keeps you off balance,” Nuckols said. “I can picture the perfect image in my head, but I haven’t been able to do it.”
Nuckols said he routinely sees approximately 15 hammer throwers at meets, and aims to finish in the top five.
A good throw is in the range of 140 to 150 feet, but Nuckols said that he wants to be able to improve to 200 feet by his senior year, which would give him a good chance to qualify for the Division II national championships.
Boll said that Nuckols went from 108 feet at the end of last season to 128 feet in the first week of practice this year. The only problem right now is making sure he stays within the throwing circle.
“Once he gets his balance settled down, he’ll be hitting 140 or 150 and if he can do that, he’ll have a good chance to place in the conference,” Boll said. “He’s a strong guy. If he works at the hammer as faithfully as he has, he’ll be at 200 (by the time he’s a senior).”