Hefferman: Technique puts Saunders among elite

2014-06-26T01:00:00Z 2014-07-30T21:20:16Z Hefferman: Technique puts Saunders among elite The Southern

Raven Saunders was a pretty good shot putter as a straight glider, simply starting low in the circle and turning into the throw with a high finish.

The Burke High School (South Carolina) standout won the Class AA state title in the event in 2013 with a throw of 35 feet, 6 inches. But the SIU signee wasn't satisfied, and toyed with the spin technique, which requires much different timing and footwork. Eight months later, Saunders broke the all-class South Carolina high school record by more than 11 feet, won the national championship in her signature event indoors and outdoors, and became the No. 1 shot putter in the country.

"Freshman year I was a power thrower, but then I went on YouTube and I saw the glide, and I thought I would gain footage on my throws," Saunders said on Wednesday, shortly after being named the Gatorade national girls track and field athlete of the year. "I felt like I could do all I could do in the glide."

She began working on her spin technique eight months ago, and jumped further in two months than most throwers do in two years. Saunders won the state title in the shot put with a throw of 55-8.25, setting a new state record. It was more than 20 feet further than her championship throw at the state meet the year prior. In April, she threw 56-8.25.

"In my practices, I was improving by six inches to a foot every three to four weeks," Saunders said. "Some people gain inches over a span of a couple years, so I just continued with it."

The 5-foot-5 powerhouse said she chose SIU because of head coach Connie Price-Smith, who was a four-time Olympian in the shot, and assistant coach John Smith, who has a history of developing throwers. If she jumped more than 10 feet in a year in high school, imagine how far Saunders could improve with more intensive coaching and the college athlete environment.

"There is a big learning curve, but some people are just natural rotational athletes," Price-Smith said. "If you can kick it off and do it well, and you'll see the big jumps in her career this year. Obviously, it was a great choice by her coach, and now it's going to be building on that technique and making it more solid, and better."

TODD HEFFERMAN is a sports reporter at the Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com or 618-351-5087.

Copyright 2015 The Southern. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

SIU's Williamson invited to Browns minicamp

SIU's Williamson invited to Browns minicamp

CARBONDALE -- Tyler Williamson, a 6-foot-2, 234-pound senior linebacker at Southern Illinois University, has been invited to the Cleveland Bro…

May 04, 2015 7:00 pm Photos


Related (0)

SIU track and field competes at Indiana State

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Saluki track and field concluded its regular season Saturday at the Pacesetter Quadrangular hosted by Indiana State on Sa…

May 02, 2015 8:25 pm(0)

Salukis lose back-and-forth game with Aces

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — A back-and-forth game at Charles H. Braun Stadium saw Evansville edge Southern Illinois University, 6-5, on Saturday afternoon.

May 02, 2015 7:45 pm(0)
Saluki softball takes pair from Missouri State on final home Saturday

Saluki softball takes pair from Missouri State on final home Saturday

CARBONDALE — With their family and friends watching from the stands the Southern Illinois University softball team swept second place Missouri… Updated: 7:11 pm

May 02, 2015 5:39 pm Photos


Related (0)
Follow the Southern Illinoisan


SIU AD finalist Rick Darnell 4-23-15

SIU AD finalist Rick Darnell 4-23-15

Rick Darnell, the senior associate athletic director for development at the University of Il…

Video: SIU AD finalist Rick Hartzell 4-20-15

Video: SIU AD finalist Rick Hartzell 4-20-15

Rick Hartzell, the former athletic director at Northern Iowa and Bucknell, talks at a public…


Dawg Blog