After failing to defend his discus title at the Southeastern Conference track and field championships last week, LSU’s Rodney Brown knows he has some big throws left in his arm.
With the help of throws coach Derek Yush, Brown has seen it over and over again on videotape since finishing third in the SEC championships with a best of 200 feet, 4 inches.
As a result, Brown will carry a chip on his shoulder into the NCAA East preliminary rounds that begin Thursday in Jacksonville, Florida. He finished second at the same meet last May to advance to the national semifinals, then was fourth in the finals to earn All-America honors for the first time.
While Brown needs only to finish in the top 12 Saturday to secure a spot at nationals, he’ll be going for a lot more to hopefully redeem himself after a disappointing showing at the conference meet.
“I believe in my work ethic, and I think I can throw farther at nationals,” said Brown, a junior from Chappell Hill, Texas.
“But I’m not opposed to hitting a big one this week.”
The ideal scenario, he said, would be to tune up for nationals, which will be June 11-14 in Eugene, Oregon, with a mark approaching the one that helped him break a 25-year-old school record at the Penn Relays last month.
That day, Brown unleashed a throw of 210-10 to shatter John Nichols’ mark of 209-1 — which was one of the oldest marks on the school’s record books.
But the euphoria that came with breaking the school record, which he had chased since the start of the 2013 season, was tempered by the third-place finish at the SEC meet as Kentucky’s Andrew Evans (210-3) and Alabama’s Hayden Reed (209-1) passed Brown in the final.
“Coach (Yush) and I went back and broke it down. … We looked at it on the videotape and saw I wasn’t that far off,” said Brown, who relies on strength and quickness to compensate for a lack of size. “We just had to tweak a few things here and there.”
The problem, Yush said, was Brown wasn’t letting his hips go all the way through on his throwing motion before releasing the discus. The result: too many fouls through the right side of the sector.
“It’s like a baseball hitter who uses his hands too quickly instead of sitting back and waiting for the hips to pull the hands through,” Yush said. “Rodney sometimes jumps in the air too quickly, and his hips aren’t going through before he throws. The hips go first, and then the hand follows.”
That little technical problem sent Brown back to the video room time and again, which wasn’t a surprise to Yush.
“He’s always been a really big student of his event,” Yush said. “He’s spent a lot of time breaking down his videos since the SEC meet.
“But I’m not concerned about him at all. All year long, Rodney has been able to put a lot of big throws out there early in a competition and then he tries to throw real hard. He’s trying too hard for that real big throw, but I’m 100 percent confident in him when he takes it slow.”
Brown had the lead going to the SEC final but couldn’t pull off the big one he was looking for in his final three throws — mainly because he was getting ahead of himself.
“I actually felt really good going into the meet because I had some really good practices going there,” he said. “I had some really big ones that just went out the right side of the sector.
“I think we’re putting it all together now, and I’m starting to feel good,” Brown said. “There was something missing, kind of a mixture of things, but we’re starting to get it back.”
Of course, Brown, who has the fourth-longest throw in the nation this spring, wouldn’t mind duplicating his performance from the Penn Relays this week and set his sights on something bigger at nationals.
“That was truly a blessing, being able to break the school record at such a prestigious meet,” he said. “That was one of my slowest throws I’ve had, but I still could have had a better finish with my hips. It was just a little off from being better.
“Each week, I just have to put it in my mind that it’s a new meet. Each throw, no matter what I did in the past, gives me an opportunity to accomplish something.”
Something big, he hopes.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter: @MicklesAdvocate.