On the morning of last week's Kehoe Invitational Track meet at the University of Maryland, Coach Jerry threatened to enter me in the shot put and his taunt reminded me of the first and only time I threw the shot in competition. Every year my high school traveled to the Archibald Relays, which was a well attended relay meet held in rural Ohio. The highlight of the meet was the "weight men's relay," which was a 4 x 100m race limited only to kids who threw the shot or discus. At some point during the bus ride down, one of our "weight men" got sick -- shot putters at my high school often ate Taco Bell on the ride to meets -- and the coach needed someone to fill in for the realy and of course turned to this author, whose modest ability in the sprint events ensured that he would not be mistaken for a ringer. But to be eligible, I had to throw the shot. After finishing the 1200 meter leg of the distance medley, I took the spikes out of my flats, walked into the cage, and tossed the shot overarm. To the disgust of onlookers, the shot barely dribbled past the circle and the official called a fault, but I had qualified to run the weight men's relay.
An hour later came the main event. I ran the leadoff leg and my exchange was with Doug "Beef" Decker, whose nickname was aptly applied (Beef's surname has been altered by the author). As I approached the exchange, I looked up and saw that Beef was standing completely flatfooted, his hightop basketball sneakers planted firmly in the fly zone, and realized -- to my horror -- that he did not intend to start running until after receiving the baton. We made the exhange, but Beef's acceleration was about as rapid as one would expect from a hightop-festooned adolescent shot putter named "Beef," and the resulting collision, which Beef seemingly did not notice, sent me skidding backward over the surface of the cinder track. I came to a stop considerably closer to the starting line than I had been before making contact with Beef and the crash landing was met with guffaws and jeers from the bleachers. I spent much of the bus ride home removing cinders from my bottom and Beef sat down next to me and explained that he was worried that a running exchange may have caused him to drop the baton and look silly.