Downtown shot-put venue creates electric atmosphere

April 20, 2011

LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas Relays prides itself on a rich tradition, but Wednesday night in downtown Lawrence, tradition was pushed aside for rock and roll and sheer grit.

Wednesday night’s shot put event was held in downtown Lawrence rather than its usual home of Memorial Stadium. Just between Massachusetts and New Hampshire Streets on Eighth, some of the strongest and most talented athletes could be seen battling it out in front of a large and boisterous crowd with the tunes of Black Sabbath and Guns N’ Roses in the background.

“I love these kinds of meets,” said two time outdoor shot-put champion Reese Hoffa, who finished second in the event. “I’m glad that the fans got into it and I hope they had a good time.”

“When I heard they were doing the street meet here in Lawrence I wanted to come out and be a part of it,” said two time Olympic silver medalist Adam Nelson. “I love this kind of atmosphere and these kind of venues.”

One of the fans on hand to witness the excitement Wednesday night was Lawrence resident Linda McCoy, who attends the Relays almost every year.

“I was reading about this event and I was really excited about the integration of the Relays and the downtown area,” she said. “I hope this helps the Relays out and that more people will come and watch because of it.”

One participant McCoy was especially eager to see was none other than Canadian shot-put record holder Dylan Armstrong. Armstrong made the trip to Lawrence all the way from British Columbia.

“The crowd was great,” Armstrong said. “Shot putters really appreciate that so I hope this becomes an annual event.”

Hoffa also said that he hoped the event was hosted downtown again in 2012.

“I think being (downtown) really allows us to interact with our fans and they can see us up-close instead of being so far away in the stadium.”

While Hoffa gets acquainted with his new fans, he and the other athletes were catching up on lost time. First place finisher Dylan Armstrong thinks his fellow shot-putters are a pretty tight knit group.

“Shot-putters are big guys but we are the friendliest guys too,” Armstrong said. “We have all been buddies for a long time and we support one another and push each other very hard.”

“I don’t know if anybody really appreciates what happened here tonight. This is like the NBA All-Star Game” said Third place finisher Adam Nelson. “You just don’t see this many specialized athletes in one location very often and it happens only a few times a year.”

“The level of competition is just amazing,” said McCoy. “There are some great athletes here and I would love to see this event downtown again next year.”

Downtown Lawrence will host another Relays event on Thursday night as premier athletes from all over the world compete in the Long Jump. Hammer throw and the Distance Carnival will be held at Memorial Stadium throughout the day.