CEDAR FALLS — An offseason of hard work paid off two weeks ago for Northern Iowa shot putter Darius King.
King’s second and third throws in the shot put at the NCAA West Regionals broke his previous career-best of 18.52 meters. 19.00 and 19.32, giving King with an eighth-place finish and his first trip to the NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas.
He throws in the prelims tonight.
“I was pretty ecstatic, honestly,” King said. “When I threw 19.32 I was yelling, screaming, I was happy. Everything was going crazy. When I found out I (was) in I was just like ‘hey, let’s get it, let’s go.’”
With some encouragement from throws coach Dan O’Mara, King dedicated himself in the weight room this past offseason. With a physique similar to that of a defensive tackle or heavyweight wrestler, O’Mara knew King could add more strength to his frame and subsequently more distance to his throws.
“The weight room helped,” said King, from Moline, Ill. “Getting stronger every day and hitting the weights every day as hard as I could really helped with everything.”
Earning his first trip to the NCAA Championships wasn’t only a result of last offseason’s weight room work. When King arrived at UNI in the fall of 2017, he used a “glide” as opposed to the “spin” technique when he threw shot. After getting acquainted with King, O’Mara placed a redshirt on him and got to work on transitioning him to the “spin.”
“We just did a couple drills with the spin. I’m like, ‘well, we’ll see how it goes,’” O’Mara said. “At first he’s stumbling around, falling out of the circle all the time, but for some reason he just started to turn well on his right side and everything started to click. Then it got easier and easier.”
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O’Mara, who’s in his 10th season as the Panthers throws coach, is a self-admitted technical coach. However, with King competing in the biggest meet of his career, he said he’s more aware of how much instruction he’s offering.
“Sometimes it’s really hard for me (because) I like to give a lot of details,” O’Mara said. “I don’t want to confuse him (and) I also want to make sure he doesn’t lose that rhythm that he has. He has a really good rhythm with his spin.”
O’Mara said King’s two record throws at NCAA regional were not technically sound — seemingly suggesting a further throw is possible today. Ranked 19th out of 24 qualifiers, King is aiming for another career-best throw that’ll earn him a chance to compete for an NCAA championship.