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MCGILL: @HerdTFXC Record-Breaker Marchand Just Getting Started

Elena Marchand.
Jan. 18, 2017

By Chuck McGill

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The shot put record at Marshall University stood for eight years until Elena Marchand broke Rachel Blankenship’s 2008 mark in a December dual meet against Ohio University.

Would Marchand’s new record stand for another eight years? Nope. Not even close. It didn’t survive eight weeks.

Marchand broke her own shot put record, which was set Dec. 1, in last weekend’s Kentucky Indoor Invitational in Lexington, Kentucky. It was the Marshall track and field team’s first competition since Ohio visited the Chris Cline Athletic Facility in Huntington, so Marchand’s record survived a mere 44 days.

“To have kids that are that young breaking records is a good feeling because it shows we are going in the right direction,” said MU assistant coach Travis Coleman, who works with throwers and vertical jumpers.

Blankenship’s eight-year-old record of 14.51 meters (47 feet, 7.25 inches) was broken by Marchand in the 2016-17 season opener. Marchand’s record-setting throw was 14.51 meters (47 feet, 8 inches). In the two-day meet at UK, Marchand threw 14.76 meters (48 feet, 5.5 inches). She is literally inching closer to her goal of 50 feet.



“A 50-foot female shot-putter would be very big for our program,” Coleman said. “If we can hit 50 as a sophomore it sets ourselves up for junior and senior year. It takes about 54 or 55 (feet) to qualify for nationals. A kid making the indoor nationals is the equivalent of a college basketball team making the Final Four.”

Marchand is a sophomore from Hermitage, Pennsylvania, where she was a multi-sport athlete for Hickory High School. She excelled in track and field, but was considered a “glider” in the shot put. The Marshall coaching staff wanted to alter her technique.

“Elena threw really well out of high school,” Coleman said. “She actually threw 48 feet once in high school. She was a glider.”

“We changed her entire technique from the glide to the rotation, so last year we were a little inconsistent. That’s a hard thing for a kid to trust. They had a lot of success in high school and then they come to college and we change their technique.”

Marchand was hesitant at first, but eventually saw the benefits in the change in technique.

“Last year I struggled a lot switching from the glide to the spin,” Marchand said. “Being able to get the spin down really boosted my confidence. I feel like the rest of this season there are big things to come.”

Her season continues with this weekend’s Virginia Tech Hokie Invitational in Blacksburg, Virginia. Then, Marchand and her Marshall teammates host the Thundering Herd Invitational on Jan. 27-28.

Fans who attend that meet might be surprised by what Marchand is able to accomplish. She is often mistaken for someone who might be competing in running events.

“If you’ve seen Elena and if you put all of my girls in front of you and had to pick out the girl who threw 48 feet, you wouldn’t pick her,” Coleman said. “There’s girls who are taller than her and girls who are stronger than her.”

That is part of the reason the technique is so important. It helps Marchand get the most out of her throws.

“It’s really a whole different technique,” Marchand said. “I had to start from scratch. Going into the meets (last year) I was really nervous about fouling, so I didn’t go as hard. This year, I’m a lot more confident.”

“I really did not want to switch,” Marchand added. “(Coach Coleman) tried to get me to switch at the beginning of last year and I ended up switching back. I had to trust him. Now I listen to everything he says and it always works. I trust the process now.”

Twice setting the school record in the shot put – and doing it as a sophomore – can make a believer out of anyone.

“She came in this year with the mindset of trusting the process and seeing what happens, and she has reaped the rewards,” Coleman said. “She went from questioning the technique to being fully committed.”

As for Marchand, her goals are simple.

“I want to keep breaking the record as many times as I can,” she said.