Page One

All-state thrower has got quite an arm

By Nathan Fox Daily Planet Correspondent
Tuesday March 19, 2002

A track meet is a circus it can be hard to find someone if you happen to be looking. And it doesn’t get any easier when all four teams at the meet (St. Mary’s is hosting Kennedy, Holy Names, and Albany on this particular spring afternoon) conspire to wear the same color. (Crimson, scarlet, cardinal? Right - red.) 

So you don’t look for all-state thrower — Kamaiya Warren — amidst the sea of sprinting, hurdling, and leaping red bodies; you listen. And soon you hear a coach, far across the turf at the discus ring, bellowing at the spotters - who are loitering, tape in hand, waiting to mark the landing of the next toss: 

“You need to back up! Hey! Baaaaaaaaack UUUUUUUUUUP!” 

Yes, that’s it - it’s Kamaiya Warren’s turn to throw. 

So you head across the grass toward the discus ring as the spotters, smart kids, move it back – way back – a good 30 feet past the longest previous toss of the day. They’re safe. 

Warren carefully takes her mark. Slowly she twists back, coiling, storing power; then, accelerating, she uncoils from the ground up: legs leading hips, hips leading shoulders, shoulders leading a trailing right arm – the disc is unleashed. 

The discus sails in a high, right-to-left curving arc. Gasps and a few whispered, awestruck curses from the varsity boys throwers standing nearby. The disc is still 25 feet up in the air as it flies over the heads of the dumfounded spotters out there on the turf, staring skyward, mouths agape - who were never in any danger after all. Not while they were standing so close like that, anyway. 

The tape measure, unwinding rapidly from its reel, jams. 

While the spotters work to untangle the tape, you are introduced to Kamaiya. Warren is 6-foot-1 and powerfully built; pretty, even in the middle of a track meet; and as you talk to her it becomes clear that she is the center of the discus ring - even when she is standing at its outskirts. 

A baseball comes bounding in from the adjacent diamond and it is Kamaiya Warren who hollers at the baseball players, “Hey! Can we get a warning, puh-LEASE?!” Cross-country runners keep making the dangerous mistake of running in front of the discus ring, instead of taking the wiser route, behind it, and it is Warren who redirects traffic. “If they would get hit with a discus I would feel dreadful,” she says. “I think they would feel worse,” she laughs, “physically. But I’d feel worse emotionally.” 

Finally, the discus measurement comes in: 131 feet, six inches. Nearly 50 feet better than the next-longest throw at the day’s meet – and nearly 30 feet less than her personal record of 158’2’’, set last year at the Meet of Champions in Sacramento. Why? 

“Oh - there are different ways to throw,” Warren says. “I only did a half-turn today, instead of a spin. I don’t have room here – I didn’t want to hurt myself.” 

Right. The Herculean toss you have witnessed is the best Warren can muster – with a half-turn, a half-effort - under confining circumstances. The discus ring at St. Mary’s, damaged last year during some nearby construction, is scheduled to be rebuilt sometime this month. 

Warren, a favorite to win the California girls discus at the state meet, failed last year to even qualify for that event: she fouled on all three of her attempts at her league meet, which by all accounts she should have won handily. So she didn’t throw at sections, and didn’t throw at state. You hate to do it, but you have to ask: What did that feel like? 

“If feels like you’ve been left in the middle of the desert by yourself and you have nowhere to go,” Warren says. “It hurt so bad. I was like ‘okay, my life is over, I can’t throw discus.’” 

Of course, it wasn’t really as bad as all that. Warren did qualify for the state meet in her second-best event, shot-put – and placed third. And this year, she’ll have another shot at both events. 

The 131’6’’ is more than enough to wrap up first place in today’s discus event, and the throwers head over to the shot-put area. Here, a different coach is running the show, with help from a different spotter, but as he calls Warren’s name from his clipboard he mimes, and mouths, the same message you heard yelled before: 

“Back,” he waves to the spotter, almost wearily. “Back. You just really need to move back…” 

And Warren once again establishes her dominance – heaving 44’1’’ on her first attempt. (The second-closest of all the day’s throws will come in at something slightly less than 30 feet.) Warren is overjoyed by her performance. 

“I never throw over 42 here,” Warren exclaims. “Oh – I’m going home and drinking non-alcoholic beverages all night!” 

There isn’t even a hint of pretension in her manner as she says this. Between throws, she is playing hop-scotch on the stepping-stones leading to the shot-put pit – and later, she is practicing her balance-beam on the railroad ties that encircle it. She is a delight, a nice girl who happens to live in a commanding body - a body that might someday take her to the Olympics. 

“I want to go at least once,” Warren says. “But a lot of [my competitors] are strong – they lift heavy – bench press, and squats. I don’t know - I’m just naturally big - and powerful.” 

2002 is the final year of throwing at St. Mary’s for Warren – and her final shot at the state title. She is currently weighing offers from UCLA and Arizona (both have offered a near-full ride), and is waiting for offers from Cal and Arizona State. (It is hard not to notice that she is wearing a golden UCLA sweatshirt between throws, but she says she owns sweatshirts from several different colleges.) 

“The only thing I’m not looking forward to is not throwing under my dad,” she says. Larry Warren has coached the St. Mary’s throwers during Kamaiya’s years there – just as he did a decade ago during her brother Ihsan’s career. (Kamaiya and Ihsan now hold all four St. Mary’s records for the shot-put and discus.) “Well – I’ll miss my dad, and I’ll miss all my friends.” 

Kamaiya is hugged by no less than five teammates and spectators during the short time you observe her. You get the feeling that everyone at the meet on this day will miss Kamaiya Warren as she moves forward – except, perhaps, for the spotters, who might be tired of moving back.