By Susan Price
Emily Bassett ’18 joked that her first-year track coach forced her to try the hammer throw. At her Seattle high school, Bassett had been a sprinter until, slowed by a hamstring injury, she competed in discus and shot put. Hammer wasn’t even an option.
It took a few weeks as an Athena before Bassett relented. In women’s competition, athletes spin four times before releasing the hammer—a nearly nine-pound metal ball attached by a steel wire to a grip. Since success is measured in distance, excelling in the event requires both strength and technique. Bassett, as her coach suspected, had the strength. Her technique was another matter.
“At first I didn’t like it because of all the spinning,” she said. “But I realized I could be good at it.”
At CMC, Bassett kept her focus solely on her sport and her studies: she was a dual major in International Relations and Economics (with a sequence in Finance) and is now an analyst in the San Francisco headquarters of Prager & Co., an investment banking firm founded by CMC Trustee Fred Prager P’99 P’01.
Dedication was essential to her success, Bassett said, but she credits coaches for seeing her potential through all the internal doubting.
Bassett’s coach—the appropriately named John Goldhammer—ripped apart her technique and stressed not only physical but mental conditioning. The goal was to practice her throwing motion until it became as natural as walking or breathing.
“Throwing the hammer is a sort of dance. You are in balance with the hammer. It goes up as your body goes down and down as your body goes up,” she said. “I wanted to get to the point where it was instinctive for my body.”
As the NCAA Championships arrived in May, Bassett felt she had found her rhythm. The competition, however, tested her nerves. At most Division III meets in Southern California, the field for hammer throw is not particularly deep and the only spectators are other girls throwing, Bassett said. For this one, she would be facing the top 22 throwers in the country in front of a boisterous crowd.
Bassett took time to quietly focus and visualize her throw. All of her mental strength training came to the forefront.
“I replayed over and over in my head the feeling of the whole thing. Stepping into the pit and throwing in front of a lot of people. I kept picturing it until the nerves went away,” she said. “Someone told me once that the mind always goes before the body. So much of success is mental—and that really stuck with me.”
The moment arrived. Bassett kept her eyes from meeting anyone else’s as she walked into the pit so she wouldn’t be distracted. She kept her mind from interfering with what she had trained her body to do. She threw. Sixty-two- and-a-half meters later, the former sprinter who hated all the spinning was the women’s hammer throw national champion.