Chucking a 20-pound metal ball attached to wire 57 feet after one spin is no easy task. In fact, a throw of that distance is a Northern track and field record held by junior Krista Squiers.
Squiers said the hammer throw is a physically demanding task. In order to help with the event, and weight training for track and field in general, NMU sought out some Olympic help.
Andy Tysz is the current head coach of the USOEC weightlifting program, but in his spare time he lends his knowledge of power lifting and field events to the track team.
And with the help of this former powerlifter, Squiers said she and the rest of the track team are physically stronger.
“I am a heck of a lot stronger than I’ve ever been,” she said. “He has improved my strength, my technique for throwing, and I have a new attitude about how to perform.”
Before Tysz joined the USOEC coaching staff in 2007, he was a collegiate conference champion in javelin throwing for Southern Florida University, and Tysz also coached throwing as a graduate coach for Humboldt University in California.
Because of Tysz’s mixed background in weight training and throwing, and his generosity to Northern, head coach Tom Barnes said the NMU track and field team is reaping all the benefits.
“We probably have one of the best strength and condition coaches that you are going to find anywhere – in the whole country,” Barnes said.
Tysz came onto the track and field team as a volunteer assistant but now gets some pay for his efforts through the Athletic Department.
“I had some time to devote and I knew they (NMU Track and Field) didn’t have any specific help in that area and it was just something I liked to do,” Tysz said. “I guess you could say that is what I do. I just try to help people.”
Both Barnes and Squiers said Tysz has played a major part in the Wildcats’ national ranking for both the indoor and outdoor season.
“This is a very good team now, and Andy has been part of that,” Barnes said. “Andy, I know, is a low key guy and he is not looking for any type of publicity, but he deserves a lot of credit for our team this year.”
With Andy on board, the indoor record for shot put was broken by sophomore Angie Leckson and the indoor and outdoor records for the hammer throw and weight throw were broken by Squiers over the past two seasons.
“I owe a lot to how I’ve done from weight lifting and to him coaching,” Squiers said.
What Tysz does with the track team is design a weightlifting regimen that includes some of the same explosive power lifts Olympic lifters do in their training, and on top of that he is a personal one-on-one coach with the throwers.
Tysz is also able to work with the athletes who compete in the heptathlon and the pentathlon, and both of these school records have been broken in the 2007-2008 seasons by senior Leslie Luhemann and freshman Bailey Franklin.
“Clearly the progress is there just from the results. Plenty of records have fallen and the results speak for themselves,” Tysz said.
He added that the best is yet to come because now younger athletes are getting the same training.
“The freshmen and sophomores are either challenging or breaking records that were set by older individuals,” he said. “And part of that is these freshmen and sophomores are now experiencing a weight training program.”
Barnes said Tysz is simply a good coach and to top that off, he is an Olympic coach with a great knowledge of both lifting and track and field.
“He understands track. We just ended up with the perfect person. I couldn’t find a better person, I know I couldn’t,” Barnes said. “But it is not even his knowledge, it is the quality of person he is that makes him a great fit for our team.”
But it is not all that easy for Tysz. On top of working with the track team, he also has to run the USOEC weightlifting team.
“My first love is certainly weight lifting and that is where I put my priorities and my major effort,” Tysz said. “And the track and field is something I’m more than happy to help out with, but it is not something that is dominating my time.”
Barnes said he is grateful for any help that Tysz does give, and added Tysz is a great coach and the NMU athletic department should be happy to have a coach like him on their staff.
“I think it is a good idea to take advantage of all the resources you have and we are fortunate to have these Olympic coaches here,” Barnes said. “They are very good people and they have the knowledge and they like to help too – and when anybody works together that is what makes a good team.”