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Interval Session #101 - Alec Faldermeyer

By SteveU - February 26, 2009

There are few better examples in prep athletics of dedicated, talented, and charismatic athletes uplifting events than that of Walter Henning – and now, Conor McCullough – in the boys hammer and weight throws.  But to really measure the impact, you have to look at those they have inspired in the next generation, and see if the competition in the event keeps rising.

Well, exhibit ‘A’ of this phenomenon might be Minisink Valley junior Alec Faldermeyer.  He embraced the event as a freshman, then, as quality coaching and his own enthusiasm took hold, he improved more than 30 feet in the hammer last spring to reach 209-08, the best sophomore mark in the country.  Then, proving that an athlete doesn’t have to be limited by “seasons,” he kept finding meets to compete at during the fall and improved his PR all the way to 222-06 with the 12-lb. ball and chain.

Though he knows USR-holder McCullough, now a senior, will be formidable when he comes east for NIN and NSIC, Faldermeyer has led the country all season in the weight throw, getting a breakthrough to 75-07.25, #10 all-time.  DyeStat editor SteveU caught up with him as he prepares for nationals.

Throwing the weight at The Armory. Photo John Nepolitan
1)  Alec, congrats on your nation-leading efforts this winter.  How have you felt about the competitions you’ve had so far?  Where have you met or exceeded your goals and what meets haven’t gone as well that you’ve learned from?

So far this season I have not actually met my goal of 80 feet.  My technique was off in the beginning of the season, so I went back to the drawing board and trained without any competitions for about a month in January.  I focused mainly on throwing the hammer because it is very beneficial to my weight throwing.  I finally broke 75 feet last weekend at Harvard and I am very happy with where I am at going into Nationals.
2)  What kind of goals do you have for the rest of the indoor campaign?  There are a number of others between 69-74 feet out there, plus last year’s NSIC champ – Conor McCullough – who hasn’t competed yet.  I’m guessing you’re chomping at the bit to compete against these guys.

Well, like I said, my main goal this season is to break 80 feet.  However, I have competed against the Georgians at New Balance where I had a very off meet.  But they are great competition.  As for Conor, I know that I am only number one in the country until he throws.  I am really looking forward to Nike and NSIC this year, so that I can compete against him and hopefully get some big throws.

3)  You’ve obviously improved this winter from last winter, but I’m wondering if the most significant breakthrough for you so far was last spring and early summer, when you blasted past 200 feet in the hammer.  I read where you had been working with 2000 Irish Olympian Paddy McGrath and got some technical advice from him.  Can you take us through that and your breakthroughs last spring?

I much prefer throwing hammer to weight, so being able to work with Paddy is great.  It doesn't get much better than working with an Olympian.  Last year, I really improved starting the season with 173 feet and ending it with 222-06 with the 12lb in September and 240-09 with the 5k hammer in October.  I don't really take a break throughout the whole year, so with all the practicing in the summer it was only a matter of time until I broke 220 feet.

4)  The hammer and weight have gotten a lot of attention the past few years with the record-breaking efforts of Walter Henning and Conor McCullough.  Are these guys you’ve followed and looked up to?  What kind of impact do you think they’ve had on the sport and on up-and-coming athletes like yourself?

Walter and Conor have been huge influences on me since I began throwing two years ago.  With their first- and second-place finishes at the World Juniors, they have really made the sport a little more popular, and their success has made me want to work that much harder so that I can do the same thing.  But my biggest influence when I began throwing was Ryan Loughney (Tri-Valley NY 2007 grad, now at Ashland University) who trained with me when I was a freshman and he was a senior.  As a beginner, the greatest thing about throwing is being able to watch throwers who excel at the event.

5)  Can you talk about what got you into the sport in the first place – and then what specifically got you into the hammer and weight?  Were you a track guy before you discovered those events?  I’ve noticed you also throw the shot and discus.  Are you motivated to raise your game in those events, too, or are they more just to score points for the team and provide a diversion from the intense hammer/weight focus?

I began track in 7th-grade, throwing shot and discus, but I never really enjoyed them that much.  Then as a freshman, my school coach introduced me to the weight in the indoor season.  I immediately loved the event and sought private help from a good friend of my father's, Kevin Sullivan, who has coached numerous high school and college All-Americans in the event.  From then on, I worked as hard as I could and at the end of my sophomore year I started training with Paddy McGrath, who was good friends with Kevin, and that is where I am right now.

6)  I’ve heard not only about your prowess in these events, but what a student of the sport you’ve become and what an intense fan you are, too.  Have you been known to take this wholehearted approach to whatever you have a passion for, or has this sport and these particular events really brought this out of you?  Who are some of the national and global standouts who have intrigued and inspired you the most?

I have never been as interested in anything else in my life, so I have become more of an expert in hammer statistics than in anything else.  I am constantly watching videos of professional throwers to compare techniques and learn more about the event.  My favorite thrower of all time is Sergei Litvinov (Russian 1988 Olympic champ and 2-time World Champ) because I have never seen anybody as technically disciplined as him and the hammer is an event that is all about technique.  He and other throwers like Koji Murofushi, the Olympic champ (from Japan) in 2004, have done so much for the world of hammer throwing and for me as an athlete.

   Throwing the hammer. Photo by Tim Fulton, ny.milesplit.us

7) Apparently you have to practice in some pretty adverse conditions during the winter … can you tell us about that?  I’m guessing there are some good stories about that.  Where exactly in NY is Slate Hill and Minisink Valley HS and what is the school and community like?  Do your friends at school think you’re a little nuts, or do they “get it” and show their support as you make your ascension in this sports?

I don't really have a place to practice indoors during the winter, but I don't really throw the weight other than in competition anyway.  My coaches and I often have to break ice off of the throwing circles, and training in snow is not the easiest thing in the world.  But I'm sure in the long run it is making me stronger. 

Minisink is about 70 miles north of New York City, around West Point, which is where most of my training and meets take place.  I cannot actually throw all out at my school's throwing circle as it only goes out to around 215 feet.  The same goes for the West Point indoor throwing facility where I have been asked not to throw because the pit only extends about 70 feet.  My friends always make fun of me for being so obsessed with the sport, but understand that this is my life.

8)  One thing Henning was known for is having kind of made The Armory his own playground, with the special weight throw area and all there records he set there.  Is that becoming a special place for you, too, or is it not necessarily as easy for you to compete there a lot, logistically, as he did?
The Armory is definitely one of my favorite places on Earth.  The entire throwing area is great and I love the atmosphere.  The pit itself is top notch, with a great circle and landing area.  In addition, almost all the meets that I attend there are big meets like NSIC which only makes me love the place even more.

9)  I asked you about Coach McGrath earlier … does he coach you full-time or do you have other coaches at school or outside school that you work with, too?  I get the sense you get a lot of support from family, too, and would like to hear about that.

I am now training with three coaches, my school coach Leyla Williams, Kevin Sullivan, and Paddy, all of whom have had experience with the hammer, so I consider myself very lucky.  I do most of my training outside of school on the weekends at West Point.  My family has been extremely supportive, especially my father who takes me to most of my meets and pushes me to be the best I can be.  Also my uncle, who helps me with preparing for college.

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