NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Most of the time athletes pick their sports. But on rare occasions a sport can also choose an athlete.
Such was the case for April Terry, a junior specializing in the shot put, weight and hammer throws for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons track and field team.
As a seventh grader at Central Arkansas Christian School she was asked to line up with 50 of her classmates during physical education class. Each one was asked to throw the shot.
“My seventh grade year in P.E. we did a survey of all of the sports,” Terry said. “One day Danny Sullivan, the track coach, lined us up. I was in the back of the line. When I threw it coach Sullivan saw me and said to do it again.
“He told me I needed to be on the track and field team. We were a small school. I came out for the team in the eighth grade. I was not as good as I wanted to be, but my ninth grade year it clicked and the magic happened.”
The magic continues to follow her at Lipscomb. She has competed in two indoor meets this season and has broken school records each time. This Saturday she and the rest of her teammates will make the short trip across town for the Tennessee State Invite.
With virtually every meet Terry sets or resets her own school records.
“I don’t think about resetting a school record,” Terry said. “I just think about wanting to do my best. And my best is usually a school record.
“Every meet I look at my overall goal. I beat myself up pretty badly. I am trying to focus on being O.K. with breaking a school record by three inches instead of being upset that I didn’t break it by a foot. I have to take the baby steps and be appreciative with consistently getting better.”
The shot put is an event in which she has a long history of success. She added the weight throw and the hammer throw when she came to Lipscomb. She admits she is still working on those events in terms of technique.
“I feel like I am still on a learning curve,” Terry said. “I am still looking for those big accomplishments.
“There is a lot of technique work, especially with the hammer. We do a lot of turns. We do something and then go back and correct it. Your foot being straight or your foot being arched can make a five-inch difference.”
While she is still working on the weight and hammer throws she has big goals for the shot put.
“Last year I came in second for the indoor shot put in the Atlantic Sun Conference,” Terry said. “I was planning on winning outdoor and it didn’t happen. My goal is definitely to be a champion in the shot put this year.
“My goal is to eventually leave here with an A-Sun record in the shot. I also want to set a record in the weight throw as well.”
Luke Syverson, assistant track and field coach specializing in the field events, says Terry has filled a much-needed niche on the team.
“Our program historically had never had any girls in the throwing events,” Syverson said. “It has been an area of opportunity for April.
“She was a good shot putter in high school. But when you come to college and have the opportunity to train year-around and get in the weight room you will see dramatic improvements.”
Syverson stressed that every time Terry competes in the weight or hammer throws she makes improvements.
“April is very coachable,” Syverson said. “She is still learning those events.
“She is very consistent in always showing improvements. There is a lot more to it than standing up there and throwing it really hard. It is fun to always see the improvements from her.”
Terry is known for her athletic ability, but equally important is her desire to be the best possible.
“April is really driven,” Syverson said. “She likes to do well in everything she does. That has been helpful to her in learning these events.
“She watches videos of meets on YouTube. She watches girls competing at meets watching what they do right and what they do wrong.”
Terry is a well-rounded student-athlete. She is majoring in psychology. She also serves as president of Lipscomb’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee.
“April is a great student in the classroom,” Syverson said. “She is great for us with the SAAC. It is a big job leading that. The SAAC is doing more things than it ever has on campus.
“She is well-received by all of the student athletes. She is a great leader.”
Lipscomb track and field coach Bill Taylor classifies the TSU meet as a low-key one for his team.
“To some extent we will play with events,” Taylor said. “For example, Tucker Peabody will move up to the 400 meters this weekend. Colin Dempster will move down to the 400 meters, after running the 800 meters the first two meets. A lot of our sprinters are moving up the ladder.
“In either case, whether trying events they don't focus on, or going after events they are focused on, we are looking forward to seeing each of our athletes compete hard. Results take care of themselves, especially with our supportive team environment. We focus on being great competitors and enjoying competition.”
There will be a major shift in the roster of distance runners available for the TSU meet.
“Most of our top distance runners from last weekend will take this weekend off,” Taylor said. “Sally Larson, Tessa Hoefle and the 5-K girls will rest.
“Other distance runners will make their season debut - most notably, Dani Walker and Madi Talbert. Dani was the Atlantic Sun Athlete of the Year last indoor season, so it will be fun to see her start the season. Madi was a National finals qualifier in outdoor track.”
After competing in Birmingham for the first two events Taylor is happy to be able to stay in Nashville this weekend.
“It will be a fun day and it's nice to compete in Nashville,” Taylor said. “Our fans can come out to support and cheer us on.”