Change is good for Kurzdorfer

By Christopher Hunt

Let’s face it. Kids like variety. No one can blame them for that. And no matter which angle you look at it, doing the same thing over and over can make you a little screwy or at least bored enough to make you want to bang your head against something.

Lancaster junior Melissa Kurzdorfer decided she needed a break.  So she took the summer off – got away from the throwing circle and the weight room. Then she changed some things when the season started. Then changed things back. (check out Kurzdorfer's interview with CBS affiliate, WVIB in Buffalo)

All that change and she ended up back where she started. But even better.

The proof came last week when Kurzdorfer broke the junior class state record in the shot put, launching a 47 foot, 9 inch attempt at the Dartmouth Relays in New Hampshire. It is the second-best overall throw in New York State history and the best in the country this season.

“We were absolutely happy with it,” her coach George Rak said. “But it’s by no means our goal.”

Kurzdorfer said she’s looking to toss a 50-footer this season.

“My technique was there (at Dartmouth) and I feel better than I ever have,” she said. “I haven’t had confidence like this in a while. The confidence right now is definitely there.”

The junior’s dip in confidence, more than anything, came from boredom. She’s been a top-level thrower since the seventh grade. And after nearly five straight years of spending her afternoons repeating the same drills and exercises, something had to give.

“It was getting very repetitive,” Kurzdorfer said.”I love track and I didn’t want to get sick of it.”

After the summer off, Kurzdorfer and Rak decided to change her technique. They went from the glide -- which is the technique that most throwers learn first – to the more advanced spin technique used by most elite throwers. It gave her something new to learn.

But it didn’t feel right. Kurzdorfer was throwing around 45 feet and she knew she had could throw much farther.

“I decided to switch back to the glide because I knew I could throw far with it,” she said. “I found the little things I was doing wrong and I know I can do better with it.”

She hasn’t thrown less than 47 feet since. Rak said she’s been throwing a 10-pound shot beyond 47 feet in practice and she’s still in the heavy training part of her season.

“She’s an elite level thrower,” Rak said. “If you look at some of the elite level throwers across the country, she models them.”

She’ll have a chance to watch them compete close up Saturday. Rak organized the Rock N’ Roll Throw Invitational Saturday at Lancaster (see press release below).  Olympian A.G. Kruger will compete as well as former Manhattan College standpoint Jacob Freeman. Kurzdorfer will also be competing, providing her the perfect atmosphere to throw big.

“If you even been around throwers, they love to have loud music around when they throw,” Rak said. “If you look at the Millrose Games it’s a perfect example.”

Rak decided to re-create the atmosphere at Lancaster. Plus, he thinks Kurzdorfer can feed off the energy.

“I hope so,” she said. “I mean, home turf. It’s going to be insane. It’s going to be a big day. It’s almost like you want to impress them.”


Reach Christopher Hunt at


Olympic Thrower “AG” Kruger To Compete Against Local Olympic Trail Competitors at Rock N’ Roll Throw-Off Invitational



Lancaster High School’s Redskin Throwers will host the Rock N’ Roll Throw-Off Invitational on Saturday, January 24, 2009 beginning at 5:00 p.m. at the Lancaster High School Field House, One Forton Drive. Open to high school, collegiate and master throwers, this first-time event is expected to draw more than 40 throwers from the Buffalo Niagara Region.


Olympian, Alfred “A.G.” Kruger, who competed in the 2008 Beijing and 2004 Athens Games will be among this year’s competitors.  Local Olympic Trials competitor, Sheldon Battle (Jamestown, NY) is scheduled to compete as well as other nationally known throwers Thomas Jacob Freeman, Steve Manz , Adrianne Blewitt, and Adam Vickers.


Former Section 6 athletes competing and excelling at the collegiate level will also be competing along with the top high school throwers including Lancaster’s own Melissa Kurzdorfer, who recently set a New York State indoor shot put record of 47’ 9”, besting the old record by almost 12.”




Editors note: Biographical notes and career highlights to follow.



Hometown:           Sheldon, IA

Residence:             Ashland, Ohio

Coach:                      Jud Logan

Club:                         Nike

Career highlights:

·   2008 Olympic Trials champion - He was the lone American in the field in the 2008 Beijing Games having won the U.S. Olympic Trials (248’-9”)and posting the A qualifying standard. He was the only American thrower to do so.

·   2004 Athens Games, Kruger threw 227 feet, 7 inches but did not qualify for the finals.




ALFRED “A.G.” KRUGER (continued)

·   Two-time USA Outdoor champion ('06, '07);

·   Four-time U.S. Indoor Weight Throw champion (’03, ’05, ’06, ‘07)

·   Kruger emphatically demonstrated his men’s hammer throw dominance in the U.S. in 2007 by winning his second consecutive national title and posting the top nine throws by an American that season. He also won his fourth straight indoor title. He ended the 2006 outdoor season owning the top seven hammer throws by an American that year.

·   Kruger established himself as America's best hammer thrower in 2006, when he won the U.S. Outdoor title and ended the season ranked No. 1 in the U.S. by Track & Field News. Kruger also won the weight throw at the 2006 U.S. Indoor Championships in Boston. He ended the 2006 outdoor season owning the top seven hammer throws by an American.



Hometown:           Jamestown, NY

Residence:             Jamestown, NY

Coach:                      Andy Kokhanovsky

Club:                         University of Kansas

Career highlights:

·   2005 Outdoor: Earned All-American accolades in the shot put with a second place finish at the NCAA Championships

·   Finished 11th in the discus at the NCAA Championships

·   Threw for a school record in the shot put at the USA Outdoor Championships over the 2005 summer (68-08.50)

·   Named 2005 Big 12 Outdoor Performer of the Year

·   Received the high scorer accolade for his performances at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships after tallying 28 points; Claimed first place in the discus (188-10) and hammer throw (210-00) at the Big 12 Championship ; Narrowly missed finishing first in all three throwing events after finishing second in the shot put competition (63-10.5)

·   Was the second KU male thrower to sweep both the high point award and performer of the year honors in the same season (Scott Russell did it in 1999 & 2002) ... Finished fourth in the shot put in his section at the Kansas Relays with a throw of 64-05.25 ... Had second place finishes in both the discus (182-08) and the hammer throw (194-08) in his sections at the Kansas Relays ... Finished fourth in the discus at the Penn Relays (187-03).



Career highlights:

·   Freeman qualified for the 2004 Olympic trials in the Hammer Throw after he tossed the Hammer 71.72m and captured third place at the 2008 Olympic Trials.


STEVE MANZ         

Hometown:           Cheboygan, Michigan

Residence:             West Branch, MI

Career highlights:

·   3X NCAA Div. I All-American

·   5th at 2006 USA Indoor Nationals

·   11th at 2004 Olympic Trials