Big men on campus: A day in the life of a BYU thrower


7 a.m. — Breakfast

BYU Junior Jacob Foutz throws for BYU. (BYU Photo)

Jacob Foutz slammed the alarm on his night stand and got ready for the day.

He dressed in neat school clothes to look good for his 9 a.m. class, even though he had practice in two hours.

“I try to blend in as much as possible,” Foutz said. “I feel like when you’re looked at as an athlete on campus some people are more annoyed with you, and I feel a slight sense of judgement, like you’ve been given everything.”

After getting ready for the day, Foutz makes breakfast.

A typical breakfast for a thrower is four pieces of peanut butter toast and six eggs, roughly 70 grams of protein and 1,000 calories.

9 a.m. — Class

BYU Senior Zach Stetler throws for BYU. (BYU Photo)

“Morning classes are essential for throwers since we have practice and weightlifting during the day,” said Zachary Stetler, a senior shot putter.

Stetler has taken his fair share of the dreaded 8 a.m. classes — not by preference but by necessity.

“You have to block out two times during the day, so scheduling can be difficult,” said junior thrower Dennis Christensen. “But if you take morning classes and go to reviews, you should be all right.”

The throwers on the track team have different majors, from exercise and wellness to urban and regional planning, but they all agree school is made more challenging when they spend so much time training.

10:30 a.m. — Practice

Zach Stetler throws the shot put. (Niklas Arrhenius)

Stetler spends about an hour and a half every day throwing the 16-pound shot put, working on technique. Stetler focuses on just one event, so he has more time to spend on technical work, but Foutz and Christensen throw multiple events and have to take advantage of the time they have.

Jacob Foutz throws the hammer. (Niklas Arrhenius)

Throwers have to hustle down to the  the track and field complex by Helaman Halls after class — nearly 1 mile and six flights of stairs away from some buildings on campus.

Dennis Christensen throws the shot put. (Niklas Arrhenius)

“Throwing is an extremely technical sport,” Christensen said. “We have to spend just as much time working on technique as we do on strength.”

Noon — Class/lunch

Sometimes throwers have to squeeze in lunch during a class for lack of time, but they try to set aside time to eat if at all possible, so they can focus on their classes.

A typical lunch for a thrower is focused on consuming carbohydrates to fuel them through their afternoon workout.

“If I don’t eat before lifting, I am just dead,” Stetler said. “It’s super important to fuel your body before you put it through something as intense as our lifting sessions.”

A classic pre-lift meal for a thrower is two cups of rice and a couple chicken breasts with barbecue sauce, which comes out to about 1,200 calories.

2 p.m. — Lifting

Throwers need size and skill to perfect their craft. The average male in the U.S. stands about 5-feet-10-inches tall and weighs in at 195.5 pounds, according to the CDC. The average BYU thrower stands 6-feet-2-inches tall and tips the scales at 268 pounds.

Gaining that much mass takes dedication in the weight room and proper nutrition.

Zach Stetler squats 484 pounds for three reps. (Jefferson Jarvis)

“We try to lift heavy earlier in the week,” Stetler said. “That way we are more fresh and ready to compete on the weekend.”

Dennis Christensen squats 450 pounds for four reps. (Jefferson Jarvis)

Lifting heavy weights helps the throwers gain and maintain their mass, but jumping and quickness work are also critical parts of training.

Throwers are 72 pounds heavier than the average man, but that doesn’t mean they are any less athletic. The average vertical leap on the throwing squad of 30-inches and 40-yard-dash time of 4.85 seconds make the throwers some of the most explosive athletes on campus.

4 p.m. — Treatment/Dinner 

Lifting so much weight takes a toll on the body, so after a good workout the throwers go into the training room to take ice baths, stretch out and get a deep tissue massage.

Judd Franson has been a trainer for the track team for seven years and said throwers have to take care of their bodies.

“Throwers have a lot of tendinitis issues because they do so much heavy lifting,” Franson said. “So probably the most important thing is to stretch muscles out, foam roll, stretch with a trainer and get deep tissue massage.”

Preventative treatment is vital to keep healthy for any athlete, and Franson said it should be a priority

“The general rule is that the amount of time spent training should equal the amount of time doing prehab (preventative treatment),” Franson said. “But realistically with the crazy schedules that our students have, they should be in the training room a half hour to an hour every day.”

After receiving treatment, the throwers head over to Legends Grill in the student athlete building to refuel their muscles and speed muscle recovery.

“Nutrition is really important,” said BYU throwing coach Niklas Arrhenius. “You don’t have to be crazy strict about it, but just make sure you’re getting enough protein and calories to recover and have energy.”

Dinner often consists of pasta, steak, veggies, soup, a salad, a roll and some brownies and ice cream for dessert.

5 p.m. — Tutor Meetings

After dinner, Christensen and Foutz have scheduled meetings with tutors to catch up on material they miss when traveling for competitions.

BYU Junior Dennis Christensen throws for BYU. (BYU Photo)

“My favorite part about being on the team is just reaching goals and fulfilling a high school dream,” Christensen said. “My least favorite part is how difficult it makes it to do school. We sometimes leave on Wednesday for track meets, and I literally have to squeeze everything into two school days.”

Such a short time frame and so much missed class makes meeting with tutors extremely important.

7 p.m. — Homework/Film

Brigham Young University has a reputation for having a rigorous academic program, which means studying is crucial to success.

“I typically try to do my homework at night to stay ahead,” Foutz said. “It’s really the only time I can squeeze it in.”

The throwers are also encouraged to study film of themselves and professionals to improve technical aspects of their throws.

“Visualization is important when improving technique,” Arrhenius said.

10:30 p.m. — Bedtime 

Arrhenius competed as a thrower for BYU and won the NCAA national title in the discus throw in 2007.

“Good sleep is essential to growth as an athlete,” Arrhenius said.

“My senior year when I won nationals, I really made sleep a priority.”

It may seem daunting day in and day out, but Arrhenius said it all pays off.

“It’s pretty simple,” he said. “If you’re diligent and consistent and trust the process, results will come.”

Editor’s Note: Jefferson Jarvis is a red-shirting member of the BYU track and field team.

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