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    Tuesday, February 27, 2024

    Matlock, Amy and launching projectiles into the upper deck

    New London — It was a little after 11 Saturday morning, the coordinated chaos inside the fieldhouse at Coast Guard Academy humming along, as if a bus terminal had just married a fire drill. The occasional shots from the starter pistol, forms of encouragement manifested through yelling, people and equipment everywhere, occasional public address announcements.

    And yet somehow, most of the participants and patrons at the ECC Indoor Track championships knew when it was time for Tommy Matlock and Chris Amy to do their thing. It would be inaccurate to suggest things actually got quiet, but then maybe they actually did, because it’s not every day you get to see the two best high school kids in the state at their craft compete in such close proximity.

    Their event is the shot put, this endeavor where one attempts to “put” (not throw) a 12-pound weighted spherical projectile the approximate size of a softball as far as possible. It has been suggested the event hearkens to the Middle Ages, when people tried to throw cannonballs for distance.

    Clearly, this is not an event for skinny Minnies and bony Tonys. Matlock (junior at East Lyme) and Amy (junior at NFA) both look as though they could bench press a rhinoceros. And they did not disappoint Saturday. Matlock set an ECC indoor record with a launch of 60 feet, 9.75 inches a little before Amy hoisted a personal-best 59-9.

    They did so encouraging each other, too.

    “We absolutely support each other,” Amy was saying. “Tommy threw over 60 today, which is a bomb. It gave me something to shoot for. I was happy with the 59-9.”

    Matlock: “One of the reasons I like this is the camaraderie. This isn’t like football. Chris and I want each other to always get better.”

    It is our good fortune that we get to watch them for three more seasons after this: spring of 2024 and then winter/spring of 2025. It was quite the show Saturday. Even if you knew nothing about putting the shot, their talents were obvious. Put it this way: Most of the other competitors, notable efforts notwithstanding, looked like they were casting pop ups to shallow center field. Matlock and Amy were hitting bombs into the upper deck.

    “It’s really all about footwork,” Matlock said. “Footwork and hip thrusts.”

    Most of Matlock’s attempts flew through the air, took one bounce and then pinballed beyond the allotted area. So much for the perils of smoking, drinking and running with scissors. How about patrons unaware that Matlock’s shot put attempts might rain on them like hailstones? All those in the vicinity soon began paying attention, helped along by Matlock, who punctuated his puts with grunts that would startle many forest animals.

    “I like yelling,” Matlock said. “It gives me an extra push.”

    Matlock, who also plays football for the Vikings, said he began the event at around 8-years old. He praised East Lyme coaches Carl Reichard and Mike Bednarz. He said he’s already received correspondence from USC, UCLA, Nebraska, Pittsburgh, Indiana and Rhode Island.

    Amy, meanwhile, picked up the sport freshman year of high school. That was the time teammate Jordan Ribeiro won the state Class LL championships in the shot and discus.

    “I was forced into it,” Amy said with a wry grin. “Jordan said I’d be a loser if I didn’t try it. I was a freshman, so I couldn’t afford to be a loser.”

    Amy’s explosion with his new sport coincided with an introduction to the weight room. He admitted Saturday that at the beginning, he was “kind of weak.” No such issues any longer.

    The class meets and State Open indoor events are ahead. As is the spring season. No inferiority complex for the ECC in this competition. The rest of Connecticut will be chasing two friends who go to different schools together.

    “We’re probably going to throw together over the summer,” Matlock said. “I think we’re both having fun with this.”

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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