The assembled crowd around the shot put area behind West Forsyth's softball field clapped for Ridvan Kazimov, at first slowly and rhythmically, and then faster as Kazimov twirled inside the concrete circle and heaved the 12-pound sphere forward.
Kazimov clapped once after the shot landed, a cloud of chalk puffing from his hands. "That did not look decent," the South Forsyth junior said when watching the video of the throw afterwards. He fell backwards after letting the shot go, and something sounded off with the loud yell he unleashed.
But the final mark was more than decent: 53 feet and 2 inches, the best mark Kazimov has ever recorded in high school competition. Forty-five minutes later, down a set of stairs at the discus area, West junior Kyle Brown set a personal best in the discus, flinging it 147 feet and 4 inches.
Both marks were tops in the meet, are among the best in the state this year, and further establish Kazimov and Brown as contenders for state titles, signaling an uprising in the county's throwing scene.
Family ties brought both Kazimov and Brown into throwing: Kazimov has family members who participated in the events back in Russia, and Brown's father, Mike, threw in college. Brown started earlier, with his father taking him to Fowler Park back in sixth grade to introduce him to the sport, and Kazimov started in eighth grade, at Piney Grove Middle School.
Neither could have been called a prodigy, and that got in the way of their enjoyment of throwing at first. But once they started putting more time in and feeling consistent improvement, an addiction took hold.
"It just had a different adrenaline rush than everything else," Kazimov said. "When you throw a foot over your PR, you can see your progress, unlike other sports, like football and basketball."
Brown and Kazimov are drawn to the individual, highly mental aspect of throwing, to the challenge of maintaining confidence and composure through inevitable swings in performance.
"If you have a good mental game, you will be a good thrower," Kazimov said. "But if you keep on saying, 'I suck,' that right there is the death penalty of throwing."
Both throwers have turned their focus year-round to the sport, practicing and competing with the club Throw 1 Deep in Marietta, which Brown joined the spring of his sophomore year and Kazimov joined the following fall.
Kazimov's progress and improvement in the sport has relatively steady. The benefit of the technique work and physical training that he got at the club was evident once he started his sophomore season in high school, as his personal best immediately jumped by almost three feet, and he's been on a consistent streak of improvement, sometimes by feet and sometimes by inches, ever since then.
Brown's improvement, however, has been more dramatic. He threw 124 feet, 10 inches at the state championship meet, which netted him 13th place in Class 7A. In 2018, though, he's already improved that mark by more than 20 feet. In shot put, Brown has already thrown eight feet further than his best mark from 2017.
That jump points to both the appeal and frustration and frustration of throwing. Brown, like Kazimov, works hard in the weight room, trying to build core strength and explosiveness in particular, but he can best trace this career-changing improvement to a small change in technique: Adding a small bend to his knee as he began his sweep, the twirling motion that ends in the shot being released. With his knee bent, Brown could gain a wider range of motion and put more torque and power in his throws.
There was also the realization, one that Kazimov has also had, that throwing can be more for him than just a high school extracurricular.
"I'm starting to care," Brown said. "Last year ... I would just throw, but this year, it's now like I feel like I can do something with it."
West Forsyth’s Kyle Brown and South Forsyth’s Ridvan Kazimov set personal bests in the discus and shot out at the county track & field tonight. Here’s Brown throwing 147’ 4”... pic.twitter.com/PJNBDgry5L— Ian Frazer (@ianmcfrazer) March 27, 2018
Brown and Kazimov have both thrown at national meets, and Brown placed fifth in the weight throw at the New Balance Nationals indoor meet back on March 11. The two throwers have significant differences -- Kazimov is bigger and taller, with his pure strength helping him in the shot put, while Brown's edge in agility helps him in the more technique-based discus -- but they're also friends, exchanging fist bumps and words of advice and encouragement during competition.
They both want to compete in college, and both have eyes for state titles this year, with Roswell's Nick Wonsley and Archer's Walter Klima, who also train with Throw 1 Deep, being rivals for that goal.
Tuesday night was a step towards that, and even if the medals weren't as meaningful, the throws didn't feel any less good. As Brown let his winning discus throw go, he let out a grunt, spun once more, and watched it land further than any he'd ever thrown before. He was clapping to himself before the throw was even measured, his instincts telling him that it was a good one. In that moment, there was no better feeling.
South girls, Lambert boys win team titles
The South Forsyth girls team and the Lambert boys both repeated as county champs in the team standings on Tuesday. The Longhorns' performance was highlighted by a one-two performance by Justin Gibbs-Poe and Alex Gibbs-Poe in the 110 meter hurdles and wins from Lee Keil in the 800 meters and Michael Tardella in the 3200.
The War Eagles, the defending region champions, dominated the distance and middle distance events, with Kaylee DuPont winning the 800 meters, Madelynne Cadeau winning the 3200, and Aleesa de Castro winning the 1600, with DuPont and Cadeau finishing second and third. The War Eagles also saw Louise Tocays win the 100-meter dash and Paloma Jaramillo-Henderson win the long jump.