At least one more inch. That’s all Maggie Ewen thinks about when she steps into the discus or shot put circle. The St. Francis High School senior is not focused on state records or national records or her college career or the Olympics. Just one more inch. That’s it.
“For me, throwing is not about winning the meet, it’s about doing better than I’ve ever done,” she said. “I just want to do better than I did before, even if it’s an inch.”
With her senior season delayed by a late-arriving spring, Ewen already is one of the most decorated track and field athletes in Minnesota history. She is a three-time defending Class 2A state champion in the discus (she finished third at state as an eighth-grader) and a two-time defending champ in the shot put (she was third as a ninth-grader and eighth as an eighth-grader). She already holds the state record in the discus and is a safe bet to break the shot put record this spring.
Last season, Maggie was named the Minnesota Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year. This season she is the nation’s top returning high school discus thrower. Her best mark in that event is 172 feet, 7 inches; the national high school record of 191-6 is not out of the question for her this spring.
Ewen is the nation’s second-ranked returning shot putter with a 2012 season best of 48-06. In early March she threw 54-1 at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in New York City; the Minnesota high school record is 52-4¾, set by Lakeville’s Liz Podominick 10 years ago. Ewen’s toss in New York did not come during the high school season so she still ranks behind Podominick, but there is little doubt that she will beat that mark this spring. The national prep record of 54-10¾ also is within her grasp.
But again, she doesn’t think much about records or rankings or championships. It’s a simple matter of just improving.
“Honestly, right now there’s not really a long-term goal,” she said. “Having state records isn’t really what’s important to me. Just doing better than what I’ve done before is important to me.”
Podominick, who graduated from high school in 2003, finished fifth in the discus last year in the Olympic trials (the top three advanced to the London Games). Asked about possibly competing in the Olympics someday, Ewen smiled and said, “It’s not like it’s something I work for. But if it happens it would be pretty awesome.”
Maggie comes from an athletic family. Her father, Bruce Ewen, was a thrower at Illinois State who participated at the 1988 Olympic trials in the hammer. Her mother, Kristi Ewen, played volleyball at Columbia Heights and Ohio State and is an assistant volleyball coach at St. Francis (another sport in which Maggie is a star). Bruce and Kristi’s other child, Alicia, is a former St. Francis runner and thrower who plays volleyball at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D.
The Ewens have a throwing circle and weight-lifting equipment in a shed on their property, where Bruce and Maggie work on technique and strength. Genes and coaching are important, but few people are aware of how much time and effort Maggie puts in.
“When Maggie was a sixth-grader she watched her sister throw and she was writing down all the distances,” said Mark Hanson, who coaches the throwers on the Saints girls and boys teams. “One of the fondest memories I have is when she was an eighth-grader at state; she was practicing and she went through at least 40 dry runs without a discus in her hand all by herself. To see that drive in her, that young, was amazing.
“She’s the ideal student-athlete. She’s a good student and she takes some of the top classes we offer. She does everything right and she works hard at it.”
Maggie holds North Suburban Conference girls weightlifting records of 245 pounds in the clean and 205 in the bench press … which head track coach Andy Forbort (who also coaches boys basketball) points out would make her the third-strongest member of the boys basketball team.
“People will never know how hard she works and she will never tell them,” Forbort said.
Ewen’s quiet influence is seen in the number of students who have come out for track at St. Francis. The number of throwers went from 15 last year to 34 this spring, and the total number of track athletes jumped from 103 to 160.
“That’s a huge credit to her,” Forbort said. “Young kids aspire to be Maggie Ewen. She’s been instrumental for our program. Those that know track and field know what she’s about, and those that don’t know track and field are in awe of her and rightfully so.”
Maggie has signed a letter of intent with Arizona State University. The Sun Devils’ current freshman class includes Thomas Anderson of Andover, who set the Minnesota boys prep record in the shot put last year.
Arizona State throwing coach David Dumble, whose athletes have won 21 NCAA titles, said, “I’m very excited to coach Maggie. She is a phenomenal athlete. … I think she’s an athlete that can rewrite the record books here.”
Ewen, who has been accepted into Arizona State’s honors college and plans to study biomedical engineering, said, “I really, really like Coach Dumble. Knowing that I would be coached by what I believe is the best coach in the nation and knowing I would be throwing with some of the top throwers in the nation, all of that figured in.”
While all spring athletes in Minnesota wait for the weather to improve, Ewen is trying to remain patient while working out indoors.
“I think it’s more of a mental thing than anything else,” she said. “I’m still able to work on the shot put indoors and throw a discus against a curtain. There’s a mental block of not being able to see the shot put land in the dirt or see the the discus fly through the air. It’s kind of a bummer.”
One of these days, the snow will be gone, the ground will be firm and throwing will commence. And inch by inch, Maggie Ewen will be leading the way.
--See a photo gallery of Maggie Ewen on the MSHSL Facebook page.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 566
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,084
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
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