Throwing the shot put or discus can be a lonely exercise.
Sure, there might be a coach around to critique and give support. But more often throwers can feel like they are on an island. There’s really no team when it comes to throwing. A thrower must be self-driven, self-motivated.
Welcome to Courtney Hutchinson’s world. The Mead senior has had plenty of assistance over the years, but she’s spent countless hours running and lifting weights on her own.
Almost to the point, Mead coach Dori Whitford says, where Hutchinson practices too much.
“We need to help her remember that she’s human and not allow her to over work,” Whitford said. “She puts a lot of pressure on herself. That’s a great characteristic but I want her to have fun, too.”
Hutchinson, who has signed with Iowa State University, will seek a third state championship in the shot this spring. She’d like to qualify for state for the first time in the discus.
She doesn’t hide her disdain for the flat implement.
“Last year I hated it,” she said. “It was an event to get points in for the team.”
Colleges usually don’t recruit one-implement throwers. So Hutchinson knew the time to commit to improving in the discus was coming. She spent her summer working with three coaches in the area: new Mt. Spokane boys coach Pat Kostecka, former Mead coach Gary Baskett and Mead boys throws coach Dave Fenton.
“I learned a lot,” Hutchinson said. “I was throwing the discus like a shot put. My motion should be more circular and I was cutting off distance at the end of the throw.”
The coaches essentially had Hutchinson re-learn how to throw.
“It took about a week before I started feeling comfortable,” she said. “At first it wasn’t too pretty.”
Her personal best in the discus is 115 feet. She wants to improve to at least 130 this season. That would put her in contention for a state title.
“I really got on it this summer,” she said. “I’m real encouraged by the progress.”
Hutchinson improved by leaps and bounds in the shot last year. She didn’t reach her goal of 50 feet, but she owns the school record (47-5 ½).
She knows a 50 footer is in her, and it’s likely to come earlier than later.
“I’m 5 feet ahead of where I was last year at this time,” she said.
Hutchinson is the middle daughter of five girls. Her oldest sisters, Corissa and Ashley, got the family started in the sport. Both threw at Community Colleges of Spokane before Corissa went on to New Mexico State and Ashley finished at Wyoming.
Courtney’s younger sisters, Jordynn (fourth grade) and Emily (third), are already throwing farther than she did at their ages.
Parents Bob and Julie Hutchinson played basketball and volleyball at Whitworth University.
“We just sort of fell into (track),” Bob said. “It was our summer vacations going to Junior Olympic track meets.”
In May 2007 Julie died unexpectedly. It rocked the family and had an immediate impact on Courtney, who was in sixth grade at the time.
“I had to raise my little sisters,” Courtney said. “I had to take on the mother role for them. It helped me grow up quite a bit. It accelerated my maturity.”
Bob Hutchinson is indebted to Courtney for her sacrifices at the time.
“I leaned on her a lot and she leaned on me a lot,” Bob said. “Courtney’s a real special girl. She has a huge heart and cares for everyone. She loves her little sisters to death.”
They have what Bob calls a “unique relationship.”
Courtney had no difficulty winning state last year. But she fell well short of her distance goal. Moments after completing the event, Emily, wearing a sweatshirt with “Little Hutch” printed on it, came up and asked a blunt question.
“Where was the 49 footer?” she said.
“They’re little brats,” Courtney said, smiling.
Bob remarried nearly three years ago, lifting some of the burden Courtney carried the first few years.
“Knowing Courtney, she didn’t look at it as a burden,” Bob said.
Courtney, who sports a 3.8 grade-point average, thought she peaked early last year. She wants to be patient this spring and let improvement happen naturally.
“I have to let it happen and not rush things,” she said.
She knows who her worst critic is and she needs to have a chat with her.
“I’ve always pushed myself and if I don’t get the goals I’m hardest on myself,” she said. “I just want to stay focused.”
Said her father: “I think she has it in perspective this year.”