IRONTON — If throwing the shot put and discus featured similar rules to a marathon, Emma Hall might be unbeatable.
Highly conditioned and relentless, the Ironton High School rising sophomore has made a name for herself in the throwing ring. Hall, 15, qualified for the Junior Olympics July 29 through Aug. 3 at North Carolina A&T's Aggie Stadium in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Hall might be out-thrown, but likely won't be outworked as she makes her second appearance at the Junior Olympics.
"I feel I'll be more comfortable and more ready," Hall said of competing in the event for a second time. "I'm more prepared and I'll be used to the pressure."
Part of Hall's preparation is kickboxing. Hall said the sport has improved her leg strength and combined with improved form and technique has made her a better thrower.
The numbers attest to that, as Hall has thrown a personal best 111 feet in the discus and 34 feet in the shot put recently. Her 33-foot, 9-inch heave in the Ohio Valley Conference meet was good for second place, just three inches short of the winning toss by Portsmouth junior Jaida Rickett. Hall won the discus title with a throw of 100-3, nearly four feet longer than runner-up and fellow freshman Amber Swartz of Coal Grove.
Hall trains with local legendary coach Rusty Smith, whose star pupil was two-time Olympian Randy Barnes. Hall also has trained with former Marshall and South Point High School standout John Maynard.
"I watch video of Randy Barnes all the time," Hall said. "I've heard a lot about him."
Hall has been throwing since seventh grade and won OVC titles each year of middle school. Last year, Hall qualified for the Junior Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa, where she placed 13th in the discus and 15th in the shot put.
"I like to think I'll do better this year," Hall said. "My goal is to finish in the top eight."
Diminutive compared to many of her throwing cohorts, Hall reminds some of Marshall University thrower Kylie Miles, a state champion in high school at Cabell Midland. Hall said she hopes to throw in college. In last year's Junior Olympics, she drew the attention of several college coaches.
To reach that level, Hall said she knows she has to rely on more than just technique and speed.
"I have to get stronger," said Hall, who hopes to become a veterinarian.
Weightlifting and running. She has no plans to add distance or sprint events to her repertoire. Hall even said she didn't much like track, preferring softball, before her mom Nikki encouraged her to go out for the team in middle school. Figuring track could help her improve in softball, Hall gave it a try. Now, she said, she loves throwing the shot and discus.
As with any sport, however, track and field can be frustrating. Hall fouled on all three of her throws in the high school district meet in Chillicothe, Ohio, and didn't qualify for the regionals, as she had hoped. Rather than pout, Hall used the experience as motivation.
"She told herself this was a wake-up call and to work harder," Nikki Hall said.
In June, Hall competed in the AAU district meet at Cabell Midland. She won the shot, with a heave of 31-7, and the discus with a throw of 111, to qualify for the regionals at Franklin Heights High School in Columbus. Hall finished second in both events, throwing the shot 32-4 and the discus 109-5.25 to advance to the Junior Olympics.