Working on a labor of love

Peters balances busy life to chase discus dream

Peters balances busy life to chase discus dream

May 07, 2004|by ANDREW MASON

Talk about a busy spring.

Chambersburg, Pa.'s Matt Peters, who's spent the last few months putting the finishing touches on his communication/journalism degree at Shippensburg University, also works full-time on the therapeutic support staff at Manito Inc. in Chambersburg and part-time as an assistant track and field coach at Greencastle-Antrim High School.

"I come home pretty much to go to bed," said Peters, 23, a 1998 South Hagerstown High School graduate, "and then I'm up early every morning."

But it's the full plate Peters throws in his other world that really keeps him spinning, literally.

He also spends 30 hours a week training for the discus, the event in which he captured NCAA Division II All-America honors during his final season of collegiate eligibility last spring at Shippensburg and the event he dreams of competing in at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials in Sacramento, Calif., this July.


"It's just like a job, like going to work, but I love it," said Peters of his training. "I can get out of bed at 4:30 or 5 in the morning and do it because I love it."

To qualify for the trials, Peters, who's 6-foot-1, 280 pounds, must either reach the 'A' qualifying standard of 63.50 meters (208 feet, 4 inches) or hope to squeeze into the 24-man field by meeting the 'B' standard of 58.90 meters (193 feet, 3 inches). His personal record in competition is 169 feet, 2 inches, which he posted last spring at Bucknell University for a Shippensburg school record.

Peters plans to compete at about a half-dozen meets around the country before July.

"I'm just starting to get into my season now," said Peters, who still works out with Shippensburg's team and coaches. "In practice, I'm consistent right at the 'B' standard. I've been having some of the best practices of my life.

"My goal is just to beat myself and PR every meet. If you hit the 'A' standard, you're automatic. But at this point, not too many people have qualified."

But Peters is very realistic about his Olympic dreams, especially considering his recent schedule.

"Your whole life needs to revolve around that competition. It has to be a way of life," he said. "Right now, I'm just starting to train the way I've always wanted to."

However, he still has plenty of time to catch up to his competition.

"The top throwers in the world right now are between 28 and 32 years old, and there are still some throwers close to 40 who are some of the best in the world," Peters said. "I just want to train as hard as I can for the next few years and see where I am. ... Right now, I just want to hit the 'B' standard, and hopefully down the road a little I'll be up to the next level."

Peters, who earned NJCAA Division I All-America honors in the shot put at Hagerstown Community College in 2000, also has goals of taking Greencastle's throwers to higher levels.

"I've always wanted to see what I can do if I start someone at a young age and see them through a four-year period," said Peters, who's in his first year with the Blue Devils.

He said his coaching only adds to his own training.

"Coaching is a good thing for me because I just have the kids at Greencastle follow my lead," Peters said. "I use that time to get some work in. It's kind of ironic that I can coach them and it helps me out."

It also seems to help his athletes relate to him more easily.

"It's nice to throw with someone who's actually doing the same thing you are. We're training for our meets and he's training for his," said Greencastle senior thrower Ken Rendel. "If we do something wrong, he can just get in the circle and show us what we're doing wrong."

So far, Peters seems to be getting it mostly right.

"Matt has always been the type of kid who looks beyond his ability and just sees himself getting better," said Greencastle boys head coach Bob DeGrange, who coached Peters at South. "I'm hoping he can stay with us for a long time. He's been great for the program."

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