Peaceful mind equals national championship
Anna Norgren Mahon
throws the hammer, a track and field event seemingly evolved from the
sling and stone used to bring down large prey or the occasional biblical
giant. This year, the Class of 1996 alumna accomplished some figurative
giant killing of her own with an astonishing series of throws that earned
national championships, American records, and rank among the worlds
elite in her sport.
Its tough to pick a single golden moment from Mahons outstanding
season, but one likely suspect is her performance at the 2002 USA Outdoor
Track & Field Championships on June 24. With a sell-out crowd watching
the meet at Stanford University, Mahon cut loose a 230-foot 6-inch throw
that gave her the womens national hammer title over five-time champ
Dawn Ellerbe. It also gave her a matched set, an outdoor title to go with
the indoor 2002 national championship she won in the 20-lb. weight throw.
But those national championships almost pale in comparison to a lengthy
trio of throws, the first two at a West Point meet in early June and the
final in San Antonio in late July, in which Mahon claimed and twice extended
the American record. The mark now stands at 236 feet, 3 inches and holding.
With a laugh, Mahon says that even her mother was baffled by the first
record setter, wondering for a moment if the officials had mismeasured.
Mahons climb in her sport has been steady and resolute. Shes
put in the physical work with throwing and weight-training sessions that
add up to a half-time job on top of her full-time schedule as a high school
English teacher. And shes honed her technique with the aid of coach
Bill Sutherland and training partner Bethany Hart. At 5-11, 180 pounds,
Mahon is four inches and seventy pounds short of her rival Ellerbe, making
it essential that Mahon marshal every bit of speed, grace, physical, and
She credits gains on the mental side for having a large role in her breakthroughs
this season. Ive come to understand the need to slow down
to go hard, Mahon says. Inevitably, the more relaxed you are
and the more fun you have, the better youll do.
That was a lesson Mahon began learning at UVM. In high school, the Connecticut
native was a swimmer first, a hurdler on the track team second, and a
field event weight thrower
sometimes.The prospect of frigid winter-
morning walks to swim practice convinced Mahon she wanted to be a track
and field athlete in college. Impressed by her fast feet,
intelligence, and discipline, Coach Ed Kusiak soon encouraged Mahon to
focus her efforts on hammer throwing. UVM alumnus Art Brown 69,
Mahons high school coach, had tipped Kusiak off that this was a
great kid, the sort hed want to have on his team.
I was terrible the first two years, Mahon says. I had
to learn a lot and mature as an athlete. A large part of the problem
was a mental barrier, a sort of performance anxiety that would make her
tense up even if the coach came by to watch her throw in practice. Looking
over at the runners, eight on a track instead of one in a ring, Mahon
thought about returning to the hurdles because they seemed like less pressure.
Kusiak urged her to stick with the throwing and Mahons mother suggested
that a sports psychologist might be the answer for her daughter, who describes
herself as so analytical. First lessons in relaxation and
positive focus kicked in during her UVM years and her hammer began to
spin out farther, eventually earning her a spot in the Olympic trials
her senior year.
Post-UVM, Mahon has always found the time and energy to train whether
she was balancing her sport with life as a graduate student at Boston
University or her later teaching career in Connecticut. Its
something that has to get done, she says. When youre passionate
about something, you just do it. Having a husband, Sean Mahon, who
can understand much of what she faces (he was a varsity high jumper at
Southern Connecticut and is now a high school teacher) is a great support,
As Vermont Quarterly went to press, Mahon was competing in Madrid,
Spain in a meet featuring the worlds best. Two years from now she
hopes to be doing the same when the 2004 Olympic Games roll around. After
narrowly missing a place on the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team, Mahon has her
sights on not only a trip to the Games, but a place on the medal podium
really try this at home
Lets get a sense for Anna Norgen Mahons American record. Take
a full one-gallon jug of milk, tie it to a three-foot piece of rope. That
will give you a rude facsimile of a regulation hammer (an eight-pound
metal ball on the end of a three-foot wire). Make sure the kids and pets
are in the house, then go outside, spin, and fling. Mahons record
throw is about the length of an NFL kick-off or, for the UVM-centric,
the distance from the fountain on the Green to the front steps of Waterman.
Athlete, coach, administrator Rick Farnham 69 has known UVM
varsity sports from all angles over more than three decades. That long
UVM career will come to a close next summer, as Farnham has announced
his retirement after ten years as the universitys director of athletics.
I have had a tremendous experience during my time at the University
of Vermont, Farnham said. I feel lucky to have spent my entire
career at the same institution. My experience at Vermont has provided
me an opportunity to develop lasting friendships and a great appreciation
and affection for the school and the athletic program.
There have been many memories during my tenure, but the most positive
reflections I have are working with the dedicated coaches and the quality
student-athletes they continue to bring to the university.
Farnhams association with UVM athletics began in 1965; he was an
offensive lineman and place kicker for the Catamount football team. Post-graduation,
Farnham turned his attention to coaching as a football assistant and head
of the mens lacrosse program. Named assistant director of athletics
in 1975, Farnham would succeed Director Denis Lambert 54 upon his
retirement in 1992.
Farnham anticipates being involved with UVM sports in one more role, as
a fan, in the years ahead. I am looking forward to retirement and
being able to cheer on the Catamounts from a different perspective,
A national search will be conducted for Farnhams successor with
plans to have a new director in place July 2003.