Austin Snyder decided to give national competition a try this offseason. The Glen Este junior thrower immediately made his mark. He qualified for the Amateur Athletic Union national Club Championship in Orlando earlier this month and heads to Iowa for the AAU Junior Olympics July 22. The shot putter and discus thrower has reached this pinnacle just six months after revamping his style.
"I did not expect to be doing this well, really," said Snyder. "After I changed my technique, I dropped 10 feet right off the bat, but bounced back quickly."
At the Ohio State University throwing camp in January, Snyder changed his approach in the ring. Instead of gliding straight ahead, he now spins 540 degrees before his release. There were challenges at first, but he quickly overcame them.
"The spin is a lot more technical than the glide," said Snyder. "It takes a lot longer to get the footwork down."
The technical aspect of throwing intrigues the 6'2", 270-pound 16-year-old athlete. It provides an alternative to the mauling he does in the fall as an offensive and defensive lineman for the Trojans football team. His pre-throw preparation at meets is markedly different from his pre-game preparation. Before he throws, he is thinking. When he is driving opposing linemen backward, he is more reckless.
"I have to be calm and relaxed. I can't be ticked off or be a bull in a china shop," said Snyder. "It's a lot easier to go straight out and hit somebody. Stepping in the circle by yourself takes more finesse."
Snyder began throwing as a seventh-grader, inspired by coach Ray Pruitt, who was also his youth football coach. He continues to refine his form with the help of Pruitt, current Glen Este throwing coach Zak Taylor, and Walnut Hills throwing coach Christo Lassiter. The more he is in the circle, the more confident he becomes.
"I can definitely tell when I did something wrong now, instead of having to ask a coach every time," said Snyder.
Even at the big national meets, which is a new experience for Snyder, he has found opposing coaches and competitors to be cordial. The communal feeling between all throwers is much different from what Snyder experiences during football season.
"(Opposing) track coaches are friendlier, same with other throwers," said Snyder. "We can talk to each other and help each other. There's a lot of camaraderie there."
Snyder is the only male thrower in Glen Este's track and field program. That allows him to get plenty of individual attention. Pruitt has coached him throughout the AAU season, again providing him with detailed focus that other athletes in bigger programs may not receive.
"It's kind of nice being by myself," said Snyder. "I can talk to my coach and know that he is going to help me right away."
Snyder placed third in the shot put and discus at the AAU regional qualifier at Winton Woods in late June. He placed third in the shot put and fifth in the discus at the AAU Club Championship at ESPN's Wide World of Sports in Orlando the second week of July. His next event takes place at the prestigious AAU Junior Olympics at Drake University in Des Moines beginning on July 22. All of this exposure should help Snyder reach his goal of earning a college scholarship.