Brooks HS Freshman, Kayla Gant, Named New Girls Varsity Shot Put Champ
SPORTS | March 30, 2018
Brooks HS Freshman, Kayla Gant, Named New Girls Varsity Shot Put Champ

Best of CPS features exceptional student-athletes with interesting stories to tell. These are students who excel in their sport, in the classroom, and in their communities.

Gwendolyn Brooks High School’s Kayla Gant, 14, is being featured for the accolades she’s earned as a freshman.

Kayla earned first place in the Girls Varsity Indoor Shot Put Championship as a freshman. She threw a distance of 33 feet 4 inches, setting the highest record for CPS girls who shot put.

Currently, Kayla is ranked #1 in her freshman class with a 5.0 GPA. Last year, she was valedictorian at Jesse Owens Community Academy. Kayla says she always gets it done, on the field and in the classroom.

We sat down with her to gain insight on how her season has been going, learn what inspired her to join Brooks’s track and field team, and hear what advice she has to share.

The responses have been edited for clarity and length.

Name: Kayla Gant

Age: 14

Grade: 9th

Sport: Track and Field; Shot Put

School: Gwendolyn Brooks

Neighborhood: Roseland

Weight of the Ball Used:4 kgs (8lbs)

Favorite Sport:Track and Field

List of Accomplishments:

  • 1st Place Girls Varsity Indoor Shot Put City Championship
  • Girl Shot Put Highest Record for Brooks HS (33 feet 4 inches)
  • Ranked #1 in Freshman Class (5.0 GPA)
  • 8th Grade Valedictorian

Q: Have you been exposed to the sport before high school? If so, by whom? If not, who/what inspired you to try it?

A: No, I have never been exposed to the sport before high school. What inspired me to join the track and field team was my younger cousin, and my love for running. I didn’t know what shot put was until I saw my cousin do it.

Q: Do you play any other sports? If so, which ones?  If not, why not choose to play a more common sport such as basketball, volleyball, or softball?

A: No, I don’t play any other sports. I chose not to play a more “common” sport such as basketball, volleyball, or softball because I told myself that track and field would be the first sport I signed up for. Also, I’ve been told that I am very strong and aggressive, and shot put helps me relieve a lot of that aggression.

Q: Can you explain the difference between the glide and spin technique? What’s the difference between the two?

A: Spinning gives you more distance, but there’s also a higher chance of falling out of the ring. The difference between glide and spin is that with glide you’re thrusting your non weight-bearing leg back, causing you to push off the ground and land in the power position. This technique is the more basic one even though it still takes time to master.

With the spin technique, the thrower starts at the back of the ring and spins in full circles while pivoting the foot to spin to the toe board and land in the power position. This technique is more complex and more risky, but once you master it, it gives you an advantage against your competitors.

Q: Which one do you believe is most effective? Why?

A: I believe the spinning technique is most effective because the thrower is allowed to build up more momentum which helps he or she throw further.

Q: Have you chosen your shot putting style yet? Why that one? Where are you with learning the process? How long did it take you to learn?

A: I chose glide because I think it is an easier/safer style of shot putting to learn. Personally, I feel that the shot putting technique is not an easy technique to learn. There are many factors when learning and performing [it]. It took me a long time to learn and I’m still learning.

Q: What are you most excited about this season? Why?

A:  This season I am most excited about Sectionals. Whether or not I qualify for outdoor state depends on how well I do at Sectionals. Competing at outdoor state is one of my goals this season.

Q: What does your team training look like for shot put? If possible, explain in detail what a typical training workout or practice entails for your team.

A: One of my training workouts include warming up  and stretching with the sprinters, which varies depending on the day. Then, the other female thrower and I go into the weight room, where we either work on upper body and core, or lower body and our technique.

Each day we also try to get in some throwing before practice ends, but sometimes we stay after practice to make sure we get an efficient workout in.

Q: In addition to your team workout schedule, how else do you prepare for the season? Do you study film? Workout with teammates? By yourself?

A: To prepare for the season, I did study film. I had to [watch] videos to figure out how to hold the ball, which technique to use, among other lessons. Since our track and field team doesn’t have a coach who specializes in throwing, I [found watching the videos helpful] in order for me to be the best I could be.

However, sometimes I do get help from our [former] coach when he comes to the school. I was the only thrower at the beginning of the season, so I would workout by myself, but now I have another female thrower with me.

Sadly, she will be graduating this year.

Q: Which area of the body do you believe is most critical to target during training for shot put? Is there one particular area? Why?

A: I believe that your upper body and hips are two major areas to target. [Strengthening those areas alone] can give you a lot of distance. However, when you bring your hips into action, they can give you more height. Having strong hips can help with your technique, which helps you become a better thrower.

Q: What goals have you set out for yourself this year? Who influenced these goals?

A: My goals for this year are to learn how to do the spinning throw, throw a distance of 38 feet, and qualify for outdoor state. I want to accomplish all these things while maintaining good grades.

Q: If you could be any athlete in the world, who would it be? Why?

A: If I could be any athlete in the world, I would want to be Michelle Carter. She holds the record for Olympic women’s American shot put with a distance of 67 feet 8 inches. Michelle Carter makes me want to strive to be like her; she is a powerful African-American woman.

One of my training workouts include warming up  and stretching with the sprinters, which varies depending on the day. Then, the other female thrower and I go into the weight room, where we either work on upper body and core, or lower body and our technique.

Each day we also try to get in some throwing before practice ends, but sometimes we stay after practice to make sure we get an efficient workout in.

Q: What’s your favorite life quote?

A: “You may encounter many defeats but you must not be defeated.” -Maya Angelou