AFNORTH’s Palm has her sights set on shot put
April 30, 2009
BRUNSSUM, Netherlands — For AFNORTH sports, the surprise of the spring season may well be a sweet-throwing southpaw from the south of Sweden.
The catch is you won’t find the freshman standing atop a softball mound.
Emma Palm does throw a ball for her team, only it’s a metal orb that weighs considerably more than the white leather variety with red seams.
Palm is a shot-putter, and a talented one at that.
“Once she gets her technique down, she’ll be unstoppable,” said Darwin McDonald, the AFNORTH high school track coach.
Last weekend, at a Division III meet in Brussels, Belgium, she tossed an 8-pound shot 28 feet, 9 ½ inches. That was more than enough to automatically qualify for the DODDS-Europe Track and Field Championship in late May. Remarkably, it was only her second high school meet.
“She’s amazing. She’s inspiring,” senior Karissa Preciado said of her teammate the day before. “I’m pretty positive she will qualify real soon.”
McDonald is also optimistic. The coach believes his AFNORTH track team may be on the cusp of something great after years of mediocrity.
“We’ve got a young, talented team,” McDonald said.
Despite having a green team — four of the five female shot-putters are freshmen, for example — McDonald expects to do well at this year’s European championship in three weeks. Beyond this season, the future looks even brighter to him.
Freshman sprinter Sharaud Gallman will pace the boys, while the girls’ 4x100- and 4x400-meter relay squads are stocked with freshmen and sophomores. And next year’s crop of eighth-graders, led by Tony Legare, has McDonald rubbing his hands in anticipation.
But perhaps the most intriguing member of them all is Palm, the daughter of a Swedish telephone executive.
The 14-year-old freshman was born and raised in the small town of Fjärås on the southwest coast of Sweden, south of Göteborg, the country’s second largest city. It’s an area of pristine beauty, with shimmering lakes, breathtaking vistas and remarkable relics from the Bronze Age to the Vikings.
At an early age, Palm learned to throw the shot put and javelin from her dad and grandfather, who preceded her in the sport. Palm, who also belonged to a track club, took to the javelin and shot immediately, winning junior-level competitions.
“It’s better to have the technique than the strength,” Palm said of the shot put. “I’ve always been really, really strong so I focus more on my technique.”
Though only a freshman, she isn’t shy about tossing pointers to a teammate. And Palm seems equally receptive to suggestions on how to improve her throwing, including the discus.
“In the discus, she’s getting better every day,” said assistant track coach Brian Herndon.
But what she would really like to throw is the javelin, which holds a special place in Norse mythology as well as her heart. DODDS track meets do not include that event.
You can tell she misses the runway, or throwing area. Back in Sweden, when she was 12, Palm threw a javelin 31.33 meters. She routinely scored well in competitions.
“She was mad about it,” McDonald said of the absence of javelins. “She was mad about not being able to throw the javelin” in competition.