2007 University of Colorado Boulder alumnus Zach Hazen is not only one of the best hammer throwers in the country, but he is also an aerospace engineer on the side–working 60 hours a week.
This was his first appearance at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Beaverton, Ore, on June 21 came
after a breakthrough season. To qualify for the trails he threw 69.40 meters / 227′ 8” at the Hamilton Open in Berkely on April 27. It was his first PR in over two years, and five years after he left the safe incubator of collegiate athletics.
“I wasn’t sure if this effort was leading anywhere, but it was. I still had PRs in the tank,” Hazen said. “That was an awesome feeling.”
Arkansas-born, he moved to Boulder, Colo., to attend CU and develop as a discus thrower with Olympian and throws coach Casey Malone. However, his hammer marks kept increasing while his discus marks leveled off. In his CU career, Hazen placed 2nd in the hammer throw at the BIG XII Outdoor Track and Field Championship in 2007, throwing 210’11″.He still owns the CU hammer throw record with that throw.
Having Malone as a contact and a coach is part of the reason Hazen decided to keep throwing while pursuing another career. He fondly remembers watching Malone throw at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. It was important from him to have a role model to root for when he embarked on his own.
“I was so excited to hear he made it,” Malone said. “Being an athlete-engineer is a rare combination.”
After graduation Hazen worked at Cessna in Witchita, Kan, and worked-out with the Witichita State throwers. John Hetzendorf, a friend of Malones from a junior world’s team, set Hazen up with weightroom time, a throwing-ring, hammers, and coaching advice. And Hazen’s marks in the hammer throw steadily improved.
Hazen at one time was juggling three full-time commitments when he enrolled in an aerospace engineering master’s program at Witchita State. He would not get home until 9:00 p.m most nights, but it was a routine he became accumulated to at CU.
He moved to San Jose after completing the master’s degree and now trains at Moffet Field, which used to be an old military track that now host softball fields and still retains a throwing pit. Highway 101 runs adjacent to it. Often cars will honk at him when he is winding up for a toss. Sometimes when stopped in traffic commuters heckle him.
But Moffet Field is still where two-time Olympic hammer thrower Ken Flax practices.Japanese Olympic Gold Medalist Koji Murifsci is also training there in prepreation for the 2012 London Olympics.
“You pick up scraps of coaching where you can,” Hazen said.
Coming into these Trials, Hazen had not been able to keep the momentum he had when he PRd in April. His first throw was the best mark he had in three meets.
“Honestly, I expected that this is my reward, I was not worried about making the olympics,” he said.
On his first attempt the hammer sailed 61 meters before making a crater in the grass field. It was the best of the day. On his second attempt he competed out of his comfort-zone to try to get the most in this field of sponosred and endorsed throwers; after the first throw he had the shortest toss of the first flight. His second throw clanged against the pole once it was released resulting in a foul. And his second throw left cleanly from the ring, but the official called a foot-foul and he never learned how far his thrid toss went.
He finish 23rd in the field of 24. Kibwe Johnson won the meet in 245′ 11”. Second place went to A.G. Kruger, and Chris Cralle captured third, but is not yet London bound because he has not captured the A-standard. On the women’s side Amber Campbell beat Amanda Bingson by cenimeters, both thre 235’6.” Jessica Cosby came in third.
After doing so well with relatively little structure, Hazen was encouraged by the reception the hammer throw recieved this year to devote more time to it when he returns to San Jose.
“Hammer is the most technical event in track and field, it takes the longest to get.” Malone said. “I still believe his best throwing years are ahead of him.”