Leaving Lawrence Much Harder than Getting Here for Track and Field Senior Brian Bishop
May 21, 2011
Lawrence, Kan. –
When KU senior Brian Bishop makes the short trek down Campanile Hill, he will do so with a sense of pride and accomplishment. The 6-2 Cantrall, Ill., native made a conscious choice to come to KU, leaving his initial alma mater, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, following a year and a half of throwing for its track and field program.
“It was more or less the fact that I was looking for a technical coach to put me over the top,” Bishop said. “I had just gotten back from the junior world championships in Poland (in 2008) and realized that I needed to be in a place where I could really fine tune my technique because up until that point all I had been doing was working out and throwing the discus as hard as I could.”
The bells of the Campanile began calling Bishop’s name soon after an initial meeting with assistant track and field/throws coach Andy Kokhanovsky that same year. “My dad and I met Coach Andy at the junior national track and field championships in Ohio and he (Brian’s father) said, `Well, maybe we should get a release (from SIUE) and give Andy a call’,” Bishop remembers.
“I was kind of hesitant to do that at first because I did not want to leave my brother who had really been my training partner since the beginning of time,” he said. “We have played every sport together and he has been a huge inspiration to me because he is just as good of thrower as me if not better.”
Eventually, Bishop’s doubts turned into certainty as his brother, along with the KU track and field staff convinced him that Kansas would be a good fit.
“I signed my release and sent it out to other coaches and every time I would ask them, `What can you do to make me better?’ no one else could really give me an answer besides get stronger. If you talked to Coach Andy, he could go over how much I could fix my spin going out of the back of the ring for about a half an hour and that is what I was looking for.”
With high hopes and a fresh start, Bishop began his career in the Crimson and Blue during the 2009 indoor season, where he led the Jayhawks in the shot put and weight throw throughout the season.
“I did a lot of technical work with the coaches my first year here, but the overall setting made me feel right at home,” the thrower said. “Coach Andy is such a people person and is always willing to help. He is not just your coach, but he is your friend, so having all of that in place when I got here helped me click with the discus really quickly.”
The newcomer’s early success helped him feel more comfortable as he went out to compete during the 2009 outdoor season. His 187-06 ft. throw in the discus placed him third at the Big 12 Championships and helped him qualify for the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships. That mark also cracked the KU all-time bests list as the sixth-bests discus throw in school history.
The SIUE transfer followed through on his impressive start with an equally as successful 2010 campaign, setting personal bests in both the indoor and outdoor portions of the season.
“My first season here was really just a blur because I was so new to the technique and I was busy trying to work on it,” he remembers. “But this year has gone by really fast because for the most part I don’t really hit too large of a throw until the end, so that is when everything starts to click for me.”
Bishop saw his game fall in to place this spring, when he set a new personal best in the shot put, with a 16.39m (53-09.25 ft.) throw at the Razorback Invitational on April 2.
“A mass amount of throws is how you master the sport and technique is how you have to do it,” Bishop said. “It is equally as hard because, when you think about it, you only really get to go one track meet a week in the season. So as you can imagine it goes by pretty quick.”
That repetition in practice is why the third generation thrower thinks his move to Lawrence was so important in his development within the sport.
“Had I not transferred here, I would not be the thrower I am today,” Bishop thought. “Before I came to KU, I really had no idea how to throw a discus, so any technical aspect I have toward that event I learned here.”
With his discuss, shot put and hammer throwing career at KU now behind him, Bishop has his sights set on realizing another dream; competing in the Olympics.
“I will be training here post-collegiately with Andy and I hope to make it past regionals to nationals with a good mark,” he said. “I am in a pretty good spot for USA’s right now and then hopefully I can get a good mark for the (Olympic) trials in 2012.”
Whether Bishop becomes one of those select few who can call themselves Olympians remains to be seen, but right now the soon-to-be college graduate is looking forward to sticking around Lawrence for a bit to train and offer some of his knowledge and experience to other track and field athletes in the KU program
“I hope to be a volunteer coach for Coach Redwine after I graduate,” Bishop said. “I would like to do that, work part time and then throw full time. If I could get two practices in a day, that would be enough to get my technique down and hopefully my throwing career would take off from there.”
For Bishop, staying in Lawrence and helping out with the team he competed for means more to him than just improving his skills. It also means staying a vital part of a truly historic program.
“My grandpa is a huge Al Oerter fan because he threw with and against him during his throwing career and he was just really happy I went here,” Bishop remembers. “To know that I would be throwing for the same team and wearing the same colors that Al Oerter did, that is when I kind of realized that, `wow, this is it… this is the place for me’,”.
While the sport of throwing runs in Bishop’s family, Brian stands out as a member of a historic program here at KU. With his collegiate career is now the past, the future of this Crimson and Blue thrower is soon to be written. If Bishop has it his way, future Jayhawk throwers will one day tell their students, how they learned the tricks of the trade from the ‘great Brian Bishop’.