At a recent Myers Park track and field meet, a few fans had parked their lawn chairs lining the road to take in the discus and shot put events, thinking they were a safe distance from the throwing fields. Normally they would be, but as Mustang coach Lamont Hayes surveyed the situation and saw the lines painted on the field were 125 feet from the distance circle and knowing who was warming up, he figured he’d avoid a potential problem.
“If she skips one, they could be in trouble,” Hayes cautioned Mustang throw coach Geoff Emerson.
Emerson agreed and walked 50 to 60 feet past the 125-foot mark and politely warned the assembled crowd they should probably move since they were in range of his star pupil. The few bystanders obliged and watched as Bryanna Hames stepped in the circle for a few warm-up throws.
As Hames unleashed her first throw, it was clear the coaches’ premonition was right as the discus sailed past the lines painted on the field used to judge the outliers of usual throwers’ distances and, had it been her best day, could’ve easily reached the spot the spectators had gathered.
Despite Hames being sore from a weightlifting session earlier in the day it’s clear that when she throws, she’s competing in almost an entirely different sport than some of her competitors. Time after time, Hames contorted her body and let out a form-perfect display of agility and athleticism, flying her throws far past any of her competitors.
That day Hames threw just more than 133 feet to win the discus title by nearly 35 feet and threw over 40 feet to claim the meet shot put title for good measure. But she’s capable of so much more and has, on multiple occasions this season, already proven it.
She broke a seven-year record at the Queen City Relays on March 22, throwing 158 feet, 10 inches and upped that to 159-05 on April 2, setting her personal best while earning her the third-best throw in the history of girls N.C. high school track and field. She already owns this season’s best discus and shot put throws in the state, but has plans to build upon all she’s accomplished.
“It’s pretty crazy that I’ve gotten this far,” Hames said. “I started throwing like 70 feet as a freshman and now I’m at 159, but I have so much more to go. I want to be 170-plus for this year.”
While throwing a discus 170 feet would break the all-time N.C. high school girls record – the boys stands at 184-3, according to the N.C. High School Athletic Association record book – Emerson, who also works privately with Hames as well, said it originally wasn’t in the discussion entering the season.
Hames topped out at around 140 feet during last year’s outdoor season and Emerson said he figured 160 was a reasonable season-ending goal for her senior year, but he didn’t count on Hames smashing that projection this early on. But to Hames, it’s just another number to exceed in what’s becoming the most storied discus career any North Carolina thrower has ever produced.
“I don’t go in with an expectation, because I feel like I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t able to reach what I set out to do – I’ve always been able to reach the goals that I’ve set for myself,” she said. “I set goals for distance that I want to throw, but I don’t go into a meet saying this is where I’m going to do it.
“I went into this season with my goal at 160, but I got to throwing that early on, so now it’s 170 – well, at least 170.”
Hames didn’t always strive to be the state’s best-ever discus thrower.
Her father, Lem, had wrestled at Charlotte Latin and her mom, Shannon, ran track and went to Queens University of Charlotte on a basketball scholarship. Hames said she thought she, too, wanted to be a basketball player and said when she tried out for the Myers Park track and field team as a freshman, she originally made the team as a sprinter.
“I wanted to be a runner,” Hames said. “I’m really good at sprinting and made it for the (100 and 200-meter runs) my freshman year. I had a friend that was throwing and said I should try it, and I did and made the team for both (discus and shot put).”
Hames’ first time competing, at a three-team meet in March of 2011, she threw 57-09 and finished sixth. From there, she worked on her craft while staying involved with JV basketball and a slew of extra-curricular activities.
“I’ve always told my teammates they can do whatever they want,” Hames said. “I tell them that I started off throwing where they are now and I was there and look where I am now. You have to put in the work – it’s not going to just be handed to you – but if you work hard, enjoy it and have fun it can happen to them.”
The summer between her sophomore and junior seasons, Hames gave up basketball to focus on throwing full time and that, Emerson said, is when it all started clicking for her.
“It’s a number of things that make her this good,” Emerson said. “First, she’s blessed with great DNA and has a lot of physical characteristics you like to see in a discus thrower – she’s tall and has long arms. Plus, she’s a very hard worker.
“She’s a four-year track athlete but as a junior she committed to it full time going to training nine to 10 months a year. She’s also very bright and has a great attention to detail. Throwing is a very technical event; there’s a lot of technique and getting your body in the right positions. She pays attention, she listens, she watches film and she puts in the work.”
During the offseason, Hames typically trains six days a week for five hours a day, a number that decreases to about three hours a day, six days a week in season. Plus, she mixes in weightlifting and agility training to supplement her stringent workout regimen.
It’s a lot of work, but to Hames it’s all worth it.
“I love what I do,” she said. “I’ll say that I love discus more than shot put, but I really love what I do and that’s important, you have to love it and want to put in the time.”
Despite giving up her basketball career to focus on track, Hames is far from a one-dimensional workout warrior centering her focus around the track.
Hames was the junior class president last year but, although still heavily involved in student government, scaled back her involvement at least in title and is now a senior representative.
Still, she’s an active participant in the SGA and works on planning many of the events including pep rallies around campus. In addition, she’s deeply involved as the president of Anyone Can, a Charlotte-based Mothering Across Continents organization, teaching ninth-grade students about global awareness, another passion of Hames’.
In addition, she’s ranked in the top 80 percent of her class and maintains a 4.56 grade-point average while carrying a full class load.
“I never decreased my course load because of the sport,” she said. “I take four AP classes now and really like to stay active. I try to keep a lot going on and I like doing things while I have the
Student on the track, too
While Hames has a lot going on off the track, when she steps on the track she tries to take in as much as she can to make her the best she can be.
“She’s got a lot going on off the track, but when she gets on it, she’s a student of the sport,” Emerson said. “She has a real love for discus – she’s good in both events (shot put and discus), but she’s especially built for discus, and between the two events that’s the one she loves a little bit more.”
With her love of discus, she spends as much time training as she does analyzing her own performances and picking up on things others may miss.
“I’m really big on Coaches Eye in video study,” Hames said. “When I throw it analyzes things like when my foot lands, how long it takes to turn and how long it takes to throw. The main reason I improved my distance is I learned to keep my foot moving when I landed in a power position, which is the beginner position that throwers learn.
“It was literally one-tenth of a second, but that little bit made a 20-feet jump in my distance. It’s the little things that matter in this sport, and it’s why technique is so important and that’s a big focus of mine.”
The hard work pays off
Hames began to get noticed on the recruiting trail during her junior season, but settled it when she signed with Elon University on National Signing Day in February.
Mustang coach Hayes said had Hames thrown near 160 feet before this season, she could’ve gone anywhere, but the Myers Park senior knows she made the right choice signing with the Phoenix.
“I did a lot of school hunting,” Hames said. “But I love the coach at Elon (throws coach Michael Gusbeth), he’s making his team great and I wanted to be a part of a team that’s building and thriving and growing. I want to be a part of their success and help put them on the map.
“I got offers from ACC schools and I could’ve gone to an ACC school, but I picked a smaller school because I thought my education would be better and I’d get more one-on-one time that will help me get to the next
Another attainable goal
While Hames’ focus this year is cracking the 170-feet mark with the discus and improving on her career long in the shot put, which not coincidentally is the best in the state this year at 42-4.5 inches, fitting to her character she has much bigger goals.
“You hear about shot put throwers being really big and I’m like ‘You don’t have to be really big to throw far, you just have to be in shape and enjoy what you do,’” Hames said. “I feel like once you stop having fun with your event of whatever you do, you sort of lose the joy and stop improving.
“I think I’ll improve and make it make it to the next level. I hope to go to the Olympics – that’s my ultimate goal and what I’m working toward.”
Emerson thinks that’s a distinct possibility, too, especially given Hames’ desire to be the best and her unflappable work ethic.
“She still has some goals this year,” he said. “We started the goal at 160 this outdoor season, but she moved up so quickly it made sense to move it to reset her goal at 170 and it’s something I think she can attain. We’re working toward the bigger meets of the season and I think she’ll get there at the state and regional meets.
“Beyond that, she’s capable of competing on the national level during her college career. She may not get it her freshman year, but that’s an attainable goal for her and her coach and with how hard she works, she can get there. She’s as talented a thrower as there is, but it’s how hard she works that separates