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Teen finds field events are her strength

Alana Singleton is one of the top track athletes in Hillsborough, a state champion and a top hammer thrower on the national scene.

By TERRY JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


NORTHDALE -- Most track athletes spend a majority of their training time improving their speed. It is an essential element in the running and jumping events.

But for Alana Singleton, running is just another exercise to develop strength in her legs to help her throw things longer distances. Her events include the shot put, discus, javelin and hammer throw.

At the AAU state championships earlier in the summer, the Northdale teen won gold medals in the javelin with a throw of 74 feet, 1 inch and the discus with a throw of 108 feet, 4 inches. During the U.S. Track and Field Nationals meet early in July in Decatur, Ill., she placed fourth in the hammer throw with a distance of 75 feet, 6 inches.

The hammer throw is an event Singleton was exposed to only a month ago. Track was a new sport to her only three years ago.

After completing her freshman season on the Gaither High School swim team, Singleton was told she would have to go from morning sessions to afternoon sessions unless she was involved in a spring sport. Since she enjoyed finishing her classes early in the day, she decided to try track.

Soon track became her sport, and swimming fell by the wayside. As she enters her senior year this fall, she is one of the top field event track athletes in Hillsborough County, a two-event AAU state champion and a top hammer thrower on the national scene.

While on double sessions, Gaither upperclassmen attend morning classes and the freshmen and sophomores attend class in the afternoon.

Athletes are an exception. Younger students making athletic teams attend early classes to allow practice time in the afternoon.

"Track became a major starting point for the rest of my life," Singleton said. "Now it is a year-round part of my lifestyle. I hope to continue on at the college level."

During the summer, she trains and competes with the Seffner Track Club coached by Mike Zelazo. She also has private lessons in all throwing events from Chris Harmon, a coach from St. Petersburg.

"Alana travels quite a ways to train with our club, and she is one of the hardest workers we have," Zelazo said. "Because of her rigid work ethic and the results she gets, she is a great role model for the younger kids in the club. She throws six and seven days a week and keeps getting better. We are glad to have her with us."

Each of her throwing events requires different skills. The shot put is her least favorite, and the discus is where she gets her best results.

Her goal for her final season at Gaither is to break the school record of 142 feet in the discus throw. Neither the javelin nor the hammer throw are high school events in Florida, but both are college events.

So far her best discus throw is 125 feet.

In competition, her best javelin throw is 78 feet, but she has thrown in the high 90s in practice. She will need to get above 120 feet to be competitive at the college level.

"Colleges need throwers in all four events, and because she can compete in them she will be attractive to many scouts," Zelazo said. "Some have already talked to me expressing interest in her. If she continues to work hard and improve, she should be able to get some solid offers. I feel she can place in the top eight this year in the AAU Junior Nationals in the shot and discus."

She realizes athletics alone are not the key to her future. So she takes honors classes to better prepare herself for the future.

"Competition in college is mental as well as physical, and I plan to be ready for both," she said. "Actually, the harder I train in track the better I do academically. The drive to win I have developed in track flows over into my studies. I drive harder to win in the books, too."

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