When Matt Harmon came to college in 2007, he knew little about the hammer throw.
It hasn’t taken long for the USM junior to catch on to the event, though. He is improving every year, and in 2010-2011, is breaking school records left and right — with most of them being his own.
Harmon set USM records in the hammer throw in consecutive weeks (his fifth and sixth career hammer throw records) on April 3 with a throw of 161-10 — nearly ten feet further than the previous record — and on April 9 with a throw of 162-3.
For such a unique talent, you would think it has taken years and years to perfect his technique, but for Harmon, it’s quite the opposite.
Harmon grew up in Auburn, where he was a long-time competitor in baseball up until his sophomore year at Edward Little High School. He had started throwing shot put for the EL indoor track and field team during his freshman year, but didn’t start actually focusing on outdoor track and field until his junior year after baseball had become an afterthought.
As a junior and senior at EL, Harmon was a member of teams that were second in the state in Class A, and won Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference meets — accomplishments Harmon credits to “great coaching.”
After a successful high school career, Harmon took his talents to UMaine, but because of a wrist injury, he wasn’t able to compete for the Black Bears. This was when his love of the hammer throw started to blossom.
“I started reading anything I could about the event and watched videos online about it,” Harmon said. “I really wanted to get good at this.”
Harmon transferred to USM in the fall of 2008, and with his wrist healed and a new understanding of the hammer throw, he was set to go. But not without the help of some more great coaching from sixth year men’s track and field Head Coach Scott Hutchinson, and Throwing Coach Libby Bischof, a former thrower at Boston College.
“When I first came to USM, my technique was really choppy and rough, but Libby has helped me tremendously,” Harmon said. “She basically tore me apart and built me up from scratch. She knows throwing inside and out.”
“Matt has certainly blossomed under Libby’s watch,” Hutchinson said.
Bischof — also a history professor at USM — cites Harmon’s hard work ethic and passion for track and field as factors that have fueled his results in his three years at USM.
Although Harmon is breaking school records and his own records, he said he is never satisfied and is always looking to improve.
“Matt is one of the most dedicated throwers on our team and he wants to get better every day,” Bischof said.
According to Bischof, Harmon has gone from a “good thrower to a great thrower” and is becoming more and more consistent.
“As a coach that’s exactly what you want to see,” Bischof said.
Bischof said the junior doesn’t only like to see himself succeed, but as a captain, he leads by example not only for the other throwers, but the whole team, and is keen on seeing his teammates succeed just the same.
“Matt is extremely coachable and is a quality individual of character,” Bischof said. “There is a lot of support on the team and he is definitely an asset to that.”
Although Harmon competes in the shot put and the weight throw as well, he says the hammer throw “takes the cake” as his favorite event. He earned an ECAC qualifying mark with his throw on April 9, but the ultimate goal is to provisionally qualify for the DIII National meet.
“The mark to provisionally qualify for nationals is 174 feet, and I definitely think I can do it,” Harmon said. “I’m finally getting my technique down real good and I’m confident in it, which is a great feeling.”
“The most exciting thing is that Matt’s only a junior and has been improving 10-15 feet every year,” Bischof said. “We definitely see nationals as a possibility for him.”