June 5, 2007
By MIKE STRANGE, Knoxville News Sentinel
As a seventh-grader in Cincinnati, Shanna Dickenson didn't join the track team to see how far she could heave heavy objects.
"Nobody ever came to watch throwers,'' she said with a laugh. "I didn't want to be on the back burner. I was excited about running.''
So her coach proposed a deal: I'll let you run if you'll also give throwing a try.
She accepted. The rest is history.
"As soon as I started throwing, I guess I had a natural knack for it,'' Dickenson said.
That knack has earned her the right to throw both the discus and the hammer for Tennessee this week at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Sacramento.
This will be Dickenson's second trip to Sacramento in the discus. She finished 20th as a sophomore.
She earned an automatic bid with a second-place finish in the Mideast Regional and enters this year's discus with the 18th-best mark in the field of 28.
Dickenson is doing double duty this year, thanks to an at-large invite in the hammer. Her mark ranks 21st of 28.
The Lady Vols have had a low throwing profile at nationals since Alana Preston, a five-time All-American, left in 1995. The only score since has been Diane Slinden, seventh in the discus in 2001.
For Dickenson, getting into the finals on Friday would be an accomplishment in either event.
And as of late, she doesn't have a preference for either event.
"My favorite event was the discus because we didn't have hammer in high school,'' Dickenson said.
"But I really love the hammer now. It's neck and neck.''
No wonder. She's improved her hammer mark nearly 20 feet this year with new throws coach John Frazier.
She broke the school record in early April, then a week later extended it to 198 feet, 3 inches.
"We had a really big breakthrough in practice,'' Dickenson said.
"Coach gave me a cue, something in my technique to focus on.''
Head coach J.J. Clark brought Frazier in this year from Arizona, where he had turned out a succession of All-Americans, women and men.
"This year has gone real well,'' Frazier said.
"Shanna gave me a chance. She listened and bought into my coaching style.
"To be able to throw big in big competitions is something she's improved on this year.''
The biggest competition yet is the one coming up this week.
"I was nervous last year,'' she said. "This year I'm much more mature. I know all the girls there. I'll just have fun and get a big throw in.''
Frazier File: Frazier is a California native and a three-time All-American in the shot put at UCLA.
Frazier and his wife Julia have three children. Prior to Arizona, he worked with Clark at Florida.
"When I interviewed I was trying to find every reason not to come here,'' he said. "I left one of the best throwing groups in the country on the men's side in Arizona.
"But my wife really liked Knoxville. She was part of the decision.''