It wasn't the shot heard 'round the world, but for Evans High School senior Taylar Stallings, that single shot was loud enough to shake her world.
As she prepared to compete at the Volunteer Indoor Track and Field Classic on Feb. 15 at University of Tennessee, Stallings was a relatively unknown high school shot-put thrower.
Then, with a flash of speed and strength, Stallings let the 8-pound, 13-ounce sphere fly into the Knoxville sky.
When the shot landed, everything changed for Stallings.
"As soon as I released it, it felt good, and then when I heard coach's (Dave Machovec) reaction - he started screaming - I knew it was a good throw," Stallings said.
Evans High School track and field athlete Taylar Stallings might emerge as a state title contender in shot put this year. Stalling threw 44 feet, 7 inches during Febuary's Volunteer Indoor Track and Field Classic.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"Good" is an understatement. The throw measured 44 feet, 7 inches, which was four feet farther than the next-closest competitor.
"I think everyone was really surprised, because there were two girls from Ohio there that had won all these big meets, and they were expected to win," Stallings said. "I kind of surprised myself with that throw."
The timing couldn't have been better. Stallings has been a Tennessee fan since she was five, and thanks to one explosive throw, she may end up wearing Volunteer colors.
After seeing Stallings in action, the University of Tennessee track coach Catchy Erickson practically did cartwheels across the field at Stokely Indoor Facility.
"The Tennessee coach came up to me and said, "Coach, I've got to talk to you for a few minutes,"' Machovec recalled. "We talked for over an hour."
When Machovec coached at Lakeside High School, he helped forge Reese Hoffa and Loren Thouvenot into state shot-put champions.
Now, in his second season at Evans, Machovec thinks he's found another contender.
"We're excited about what might happen the next few months," he said. "She's no doubt the best thrower in the state with the shot. Our main objective is for her to set a new state record."
Not so long ago, that goal might have been considered laughable. During her junior season, Stallings recorded a best throw of 37 feet, 8 inches, and she didn't even qualify for the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA state championships.
"I was so anxious to go to state. A lot of people put expectations on me and I wanted to fulfill their expectations," she said. "I just put a lot of pressure on myself and tried a little too hard."
Stallings is still trying hard, but the pressure has subsided. She skipped basketball season to work with Machovec on her throwing technique, and with her continued diligence in the weight room, everything started to come together.
The 44-7 throw in Tennessee was more than a foot longer than the winning effort in any classification at the 2002 GHSA state meet, and also was good enough to rank third nationally among current high school athletes.
Stallings begins her senior track-and-field season today when the Lady Knights travel to Greenbrier High School. The meet marks the first leg of a journey that could conclude this May in Albany, where Stallings hopes to shatter the GHSA state shot-put record.
April Thomas of Westover High School holds the current record, with a throw of 46-7 in 2001, so Stallings has to pick up some distance between now and the state meet.
Machovec certainly sees the potential in the 5-2, 145-pound dynamo.
"A few months ago, coach was like 'You're going to break the state record this year.' I pretty much laughed at him," Stallings admits. "I really didn't think it was in reach."
Those thoughts ended with a single shot.
"The meet at Tennessee boosted my confidence," she says. "My goal really is to break the state record, so hopefully I'll get 47-plus."
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