Holding an eight pound metal ball close to her neck, WCHS senior Mariam Coulibaly takes her stance in the throwing pit, facing away from her target and lifting one leg in the air. Gaining momentum, she twists and launches the ball into the air, watching as it soars and lands with a thud far into the field.
When the spring season starts, Coulibaly steps off of the basketball court and onto the track as she takes on the role of captain of the girls throwing team. Leading a group of five underclassman girls, Coulibaly makes sure to guide them through this new sport and encourage them to reach their full potential.
“It’s a different experience, leading a group of people, especially because [for] throws most people don’t throw until their high school years. Like they don’t know how to do it and so I’m teaching people how to throw from scratch, like the standard form, like how you hold the ball, how you hold it against your neck, as a standard stuff,” Coulibaly said. “Sometimes it can be hard to encourage them, because sometimes starting off is very difficult…But as a captain, you have to make sure you’re there to hold them up morally, and just ensure that it’s a long process to get good at throwing.”
Coulibaly began shotput and discus her sophomore year, having never done it before. Although COVID-19 cut her season short, she continued practicing through her junior year and placed first in sectionals for both shot put and discus, and fourth in both events for state. Coulibaly recently hit new heights when she made a personal record throw of 33 feet, three inches.
“Sophomore year she had poor form from lack of coaching, but as we progressed, she learned and started throwing farther and eventually winning some meets,” WCHS senior and throwing captain Devin Jekat said. “Mariam adds to the team by being a role model for other throwers by winning meets as well as keeping a great team spirit.”
Being a dual-sport athlete means little time for rest between the seasons. But for Coulibaly, she views it as a way to stay prepared for whatever sport she is playing.
“Playing basketball helped a lot with track because I was already in shape. So doing the mile warm up, and doing workouts for track,” Coulibaly said. “Like how it was the buildup of the last six months of like, constantly running, working out and working on techniques for whatever sport I’m doing.”
The consecutive seasons not only keep Coulibaly in shape, but they also have helped her learn proper time management to manage her school work along with the rest of her activities. She has found that in the fall when she has more free time, she is more likely to procrastinate and feels less motivation to finish her work on time.
“So because sports take like another half of your day, I learned how to more effectively do my schoolwork, like which classes to prioritize in terms of the workload, and knowing when to do it,” Coulibaly said. “And so having sports allowed me to have, not like a rigid schedule, but just something to help me keep track of what I’m doing… And so having the mindset already will be an easier transition, doing like post high school stuff.”
The track team is known for being a close knit group, many members spending every day of the fall, winter and spring season together. Despite only joining in her sophomore year for the spring season, Coulibaly found a large welcoming group, especially within her field events.
“ The throwers are a very unique group of people. And so it makes for a lot of fun experiences that I would never see anywhere else…but we have all our fun moments and stuff,” Coulibaly said. “It’s also very easy to make friends with other throwers from other teams like when we have Invitational meets.. ask for techniques and then congratulate them for throwing so far and doing so well…You see the same people at every meet and like every invitational is going to be the same throwers you see, like every other Saturday or so. So it’s like you have a big network of throwers across the county that you befriend and get close with.”
Coulibaly is often found cheering for her teammates, and creating waves through the audience with WCHS senior and Jumps captain Petra Baggili no matter what school is playing. Coulibaly’s team spirit is recognized by the other members of the track team, with her winning Field MVP for the 2020-2021 school year. She finds that the support she gives is returned, and the encouragement enhances her performance.
“I know exactly how to help my throwing team. So mentally, it’s a very collaborative sport. And I feel like having a slowly increasing size of a team helps us improve because you have more support, you have more and more [of a] support team. I remember, the first meet everyone hit their PRs from indoor track season. So the next day, we threw a little throwers party, which none of the coaches knew about, like we’re not allowed to have food on the track,” Coulibaly said. “Everyone’s very supportive of each other. And I think if I were like the only person throwing on my team, I feel like I probably wouldn’t be doing as well, because I wouldn’t have the support team.”