Heart of a hammer

Haleigh Sudbeck dreams of throwing in college

Haleigh Sudbeck stepped into the ring with the right mindset and became the Washington state high school hammer champion.

“It would be awesome to win, but I truly don’t need to win,” she told herself before capturing the title. “I just love throwing. It’s something you have to put your whole heart and soul into.”

The 17-year-old from Camas beat 18 other competitors with a toss of 154 feet, 7 inches May 31, at Central Valley High School, in Spokane. Sudbeck said she trained hard all season for the state meet. There was nothing more to think about other than letting that hammer fly.

“By that point in a meet, it’s more muscle memory,” she said. “You don’t want anything to mess you up in your mind.”

Sudbeck had a breakthrough performance when she tossed the hammer 155-9 to win a meet in Centralia May 3. By the next weekend, she was throwing it 150 feet consistently.

“It’s only in your head that you think you can’t do it,” Sudbeck said. “You gotta break down that wall.”

Sudbeck has seen Camas High School throwing coach Hank Midles mold Papermakers into hammer throwers, college competitors and graduates. She hopes to follow a similar path.

“It’s pretty amazing what he can do,” Sudbeck said of Midles. “He tells me something different every time. It’s usually something helpful for my next throw, or something I haven’t heard before that’s inspiring.”

Sudbeck keeps reaching new milestones. She earned a new personal best hammer throw of 164 feet June 9, in McMinnville, Oregon.

“It was on my last throw. I was having a rough day until then,” she said. “When I let it go, I thought it was going to be a pretty far throw. Not that far, though.”

Sudbeck entered the Golden West Invitational Saturday, which was held about 30 miles east of Sacramento. She finished in second place in the hammer with a toss of 145 feet.

Sudbeck has been to several meets around Washington and Oregon. She traveled to Texas last summer for the Junior Olympics. This was her first competition in California.

“Once you get further away from where you are, the techniques open up in a wide range,” Sudbeck said. “I learn so much just by watching the other throwers, and I get to show them what I can do.”

Sudbeck said throwing the hammer takes lots of patience and time, but the payoff provides all the thrill she needs.

“I wouldn’t call myself a daredevil,” Sudbeck said. “The speed and acceleration, I don’t need to find anywhere else. I get it all right there in that ring.”