Big Walnut Roundup: Golden Eagles' Mark Ruffing hopes throwing change pays dividends

Scott Gerfen
ThisWeek
After previously “gliding” through the throwing circle while competing in the shot put, Big Walnut senior Mark Ruffing hopes to quickly master the more challenging “spin” technique to generate more momentum and greater distances.

Midway through his senior season with the Big Walnut boys track and field team, Mark Ruffing is making what may be a risky move: He’s tweaking his technique in the shot put.

Since his freshman year, Ruffing has mostly heaved the 12-pound shot by “gliding” through the throwing circle. Now he’s hoping to quickly master the more challenging “spin” technique, which can generate more momentum for the throw.

The goal is simple: more distance.

“My personal best with ‘the glide’ is 49 feet, 9 inches,” Ruffing said. “I could consistently hit those high 40s numbers, but I felt like I couldn’t break 50 with the glide. I felt like I’d hit a plateau.”

Before changing his technique, Ruffing, who also excels in the discus, scored first-place finishes in the shot put in the Newark Invitational on April 3 (46-9) and the Big Walnut Red Edwards Golden Eagles Relays on April 10 (48-8).

Since then, however, he fouled out of an April 20 dual against Groveport and finished fifth (39-10) in an April 26 meet against Olentangy Orange, Delaware and Buckeye Valley.

“What he’s going through right now is kind of typical,” coach Ryan Borland said. “You take a little regression as you’re learning the spin because things are happening a little quicker. If your technique is off a little, it can throw your balance off and cause you to foul out of the ring.”

Ruffing was first introduced to the spin technique at a summer camp before what would’ve been his junior season, which was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

He was ready to make the switch last year.

“I feel like if I would’ve had that junior season, I would’ve learned the spin and gone into my senior season knowing it and just improving from there,” he said. “It really shortened my time to learn the technique.”

Despite the setbacks, Ruffing has been improving, especially in practice under throwing coach Joe Weaver.

His throws have topped 50 feet.

“When I keep hitting those numbers, my confidence is only going to go up,” he said. “Eventually, I’ll put it together and get there.”

Ruffing hopes the extra work and coaching will pay off in the OCC-Capital Division meet May 13 and 15 at Westerville North and in the postseason.

In the 2019 Division I regional meet, the four state qualifiers in the shot put threw between 51-11 and 57-9 1/4.

“I think with both the shot put and discus, Mark has what it takes to get to state,” Borland said. “Missing last year really hurt athletes in the technical events. … There are going to be growing pains. He just needs to keep focusing on himself and not getting caught up in those around him. Mark is going to be just fine.”

Underclassmen shine

for girls track team

Freshmen and sophomores led the girls track team to a third-place finish in the Sarah Robinson Relays on April 23 at Lakewood.

Just four points separated the top three teams in the eight-team field: Liberty Union (77), Mount Vernon (75) and Big Walnut (73).

“We gave the seniors and most juniors the weekend off for prom, so we were able to use 16 freshmen, six sophomores and two juniors to get big-meet experience, which will help us during the latter part of this year as we head into the meat-grinder portion of the schedule and in the future as they shift from being underclassmen to upperclassmen,” coach Joe Evener said on the school’s athletics website.

Kendall Sarcheck, Maci Ames, Charlie Greene and Alexus Roberts earned the only first-place finish for the Golden Eagles, winning the shuttle hurdles in 1 minute, 15.08 seconds.

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