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Discus champion: Steggerda is best in throw

Recent Stone Bridge High School graduate Connor Steggerda poses next to his state-championship distance of 174 feet, 9 inches in the discus throw.—Courtesy Photo
Record-setting discus champion Connor Steggerda can't leave well enough alone.

Four years ago, Steggerda entered Stone Bridge High School as a travel-level baseball player and a promising distance runner. He leaves as an elite Division I-caliber athlete who does neither of those things.

One day, while pacing out a practice run during his freshman year, Steggerda's eye wandered over toward the throwers' spot. He thought the grass looked greener over there.

"Every practice I'd run by the discus circle and I'd watch them throw," he recalled. "It looked interesting and difficult at the same time. I was drawn towards that."

Steggerda did fairly well as a runner, turning in a personal cross-country best of 18 minutes, 28 seconds. But when he went back out for track and field in the spring of his sophomore year, he did so as a brand new thrower.

He wasn't new for long.

Steggerda took quickly to his venture, progressing rapidly under the tutelage of Stone Bridge throwing coach Christine Cavins. By the time of Conference 14's championship meet, he was hurling the discus 117 feet and leading the Bulldog throwing team.

It began to dawn on the rising junior that making states for discus was within his reach.

"That was just my first year, and I was still really undersized," Steggerda said. "I knew that if I got bigger and got the form, I could compete with everyone else."

Steggerda's years as a hard-hitting third baseman and hard-throwing pitcher, combined with the stamina of running five competitive kilometers non-stop, provided his baseline athleticism. He set about reshaping his body from the slender build of a distance runner to the bulky frame of a discus thrower.

"I guess I've always been naturally athletic," said Steggerda. "I just spent hours every day in the weight room."

Between the springs of his sophomore and senior years, Steggerda spurted from 5-foot-9 and 140 pounds to 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds. His wingspan - a crucial factor in discus throwing - measures at 6-foot-8.

Making his mark

On June 3 in Newport News, Steggerda made history when he set a new record for the Virginia High School League Group 5A state meet.

It helped to have stiff competition. Steggerda engaged in head-to-head battle with Connor Scott of Lee-Davis, bound to throw for William & Mary.

When Scott threw a 162 with his second toss, Steggerda threw a 164. When Scott nearly equaled that, Steggerda responded with possibly his best throw ever. The Bulldog launched the discus 174 feet and 9 inches, besting his own personal record by a full 10 feet.

"The release felt really nice. It came off smooth," Steggerda said. "I knew it was definitely a PR and had a chance to be the state winner."

It was the state winner and then some. The entire meet was halted while a band of red-shirted officials carefully determined that Steggerda had, by five inches, set a new state-meet record.

The next level

In March, George Mason University offered Steggerda a spot on its track team, which the Ashburn resident soon accepted.

His collegiate choice locked in, Steggerda is spending the summer improving his spin technique through the discus circle, generating the torque to whip his right arm around at maximum velocity.

"I've been working for many months on the specifics of the back of the circle, because in my opinion that's the most important part of the spin," he said.

Work on his body continues, since Steggerda will throw a heavier discus in college. In high school, the saucer weighs 1.6 kilograms, or about 3.5 pounds; collegiately, it's about a pound heavier.

"With the heavier discus, your spin has to be much smoother," he explained.

But Steggerda isn't done trying new things. For George Mason, he'll take up the javelin, which is nothing like the discus - though he's doing it for the same reasons.

"The form and technique are completely different from anything I've done," he said. "But I've always wanted to throw it because it looks like it's fun and kinda hard."

"So it's going to be like when I started with the discus all over again," Steggerda continued.

If it is, Steggerda should turn out to be a top-level javelin thrower too.

Connor Steggerda

-Sport: Track and field

-Personal best for discus: 174 feet, 9 inches

-Personal best for shot put: 51 feet, 5 inches

-Just graduated: Stone Bridge High School

-GPA: 4.0

-Set to attend: George Mason University

-Previous sports: Baseball, golf, distance running


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