Lucy Mason cupped a 6-pound shot in her right hand as she readied herself for her first attempt at the shot put. She was one of eight girls competing in the pentathlon Thursday in the 2008 USATF Region III Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships at South Pointe High School.
Thursday's opening day featured the "multi-events," the pentathlon, the heptathlon and decathlon. Each multi-event is split into male and female age categories.
The heptathlon and decathlon require two days to complete all the events.
The pentathlon, made up of five events, is a one-day show of speed and strength. Each girl competes in the 100-meter hurdles, shot put, high jump, long jump and 800 meters, in that order.
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Mason, a 14-year old from Stone Mountain, Ga., held the shot close to her neck. She stood at the back of the throwing circle and faced away from the targeted wedge of sand where her efforts would be measured. Then in a forceful, spinning motion she whirled to the front of the circle. It was there she let out a growl and the shot exploded from her hand.
Loud enough for the knot of parents watching from behind a chain link fence some 15 feet away to hear, an official barked, "11.68 meters."
That was Mason's first attempt. Each competitor gets three throws.
One was all Mason needed. It was the longest of the day.
Mason went to a camp this summer and learned the spin style. The camp specialized in throwing.
"Shot is my best event," Mason said.
Mason took the point lead with the shot and went on to take first place in the pentathlon. She was strong in the 100m hurdles, high jump and long jump, as well. That's what it takes to win a pentathlon.
The rest of the girls used the glide style of putting. They also begin near the back of the circle. But they sidestep through the throwing motion.
Tika Slay was the most effective with the glide. He best effort was 10.80 meters.
Kendell Williams, a 13-year-old speedster from Kennesaw, Ga., won the 100m hurdles in a time of 15.20 seconds. She finished second overall.
Slay, from Douglasville, Ga., won the long jump (5.25 meters). She finished third overall.
All three competed against each other in Georgia's State Junior Olympics to qualify for this week's events. Slay won then with Williams second and Mason third.
The pentathlon is scored on a point system. Maybe some math major somewhere can understand it. Luckily, there was Heather Koziel.
Koziel was a standout at Northwestern and went on to run for Charleston Southern. She competed in the heptathlon (seven events) during her prep career in the Junior Olympics.
She explained that the athletes' times in the track events are awarded points. Similarly, points are awarded for the shot, the high jump and long jump. Track events earn more points than field events.
"The object is to do everything to the best of your ability," Koziel offered. "So if you finish third or fourth in an event but performed well, you'll get good points."
The points are tallied after all five events are completed to determine the winner.
Mason had 3,053 points. Williams 2,940 and Slay 2,927.
All three qualified for the National Junior Olympic Championships, to be held July 22-27 in Omaha, Neb.