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Gators' Foster short on technique, not on confidence

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2001


LAND O'LAKES -- Every time Alison Foster sends a shot put or discus hurtling from her hands, Land O'Lakes girls track coach Rock Ridgeway can't quite believe what he's seeing.

He can't quite believe the 6-foot-1 Foster is just a freshman.

Or that she is the Class 3A, District 9 shot put champion and discus runner-up.

Or that the four-sport letterman could qualify for her first state meet in today's Class 3A, Region 3 meet at Sarasota Booker's Tornado Alley Stadium.

Sure, Ridgeway saw the promise and knew such feats were possible, but right away? He knew she would be good, but no, he never expected her to be one of the best so quickly.

"I thought she'd be, if not in the middle of the pack, then in the upper echelon (of throwers)," Ridgeway said. "But I didn't think she would be this good this fast."

Then again, the 15-year-old Foster feels the same way.

"Actually, I am surprised," she said. "I didn't expect to do as well as I did this year.

"I thought there'd be a lot more girls older than I am, a lot stronger than I am, a lot better than I am. I just thought there'd be a lot more competition.

Yet here Foster is, on the cusp of what could be a storied four-year prep career. It started for her at Seven Springs Middle School, when coach Tim Bogges first introduced her to the sport.

A New Port Richey resident, she came to Land O'Lakes for the international baccalaureate program because she wants to study law in college and has her sights set on attending Yale.

She has also made an immediate impact athletically at the school. She started for the Gators' basketball team at center, played varsity volleyball and was a member of the weightlifting team. Now boys track coach Al Claggett helps perfect her form and technique in her fourth sport of the school year.

Her best event is the shot put and her best throw is 32 feet, 8 inches. In the discus it's 97-8. And she's doing it almost on strength alone. Foster doesn't pivot (or spin around) when she's throwing the discus -- she just winds up and "punches it," as she put it.

"I've only had her pivoting a couple of times," Claggett said. "She's not quite comfortable with it yet. It takes time, it just takes so much time."

But when she is ready to pivot, watch out.

"She's strong," Ridgeway said. "I don't want to say she's lanky, but she's tall and has good leverage to throw. I think she can throw at least 2 more feet, 3 at the most in the shot and 20 more in the discus. But she doesn't have technique down yet."

She does have the confidence, though, to reach the state meet in her first year of competition.

"Districts was huge and I can just imagine what regionals will be like," she said. "I'm psyched about going."

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