Setting a personal record is a great accomplishment in track. But one Boilermaker is within reach of breaking something much tougher: the NCAA Division-I record.
Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, a junior thrower on the track and field team, is in pursuit of the 35-pound weight throw record. Typically, people think of records as being years or decades old. But in Enekwechi’s case, he is chasing someone who is still an active collegiate thrower. Michael Lihrman, a thrower at Wisconsin, is the NCAA Division-I record holder in the weight throw (24.91m), and both Lihrman and Enekwechi (24.04m) will take the ring this weekend at the Big Ten Indoor Championships.
Head track and field coach Lonnie Greene called the matchup between Lihrman and Enekwechi a “clash of gladiators” and was not shy about what the record would mean for Purdue.
“It would mean the world to our program; it would mean the world to this University and this athletic department,” Greene said. “Basically, we’d be able to say (Enekwechi’s) the best weight thrower in the country – the best that the collegiate ranks has to offer ... I think this weekend will be interesting, and when they meet again at the National Championships, it’s going to be very interesting ... If I’m a betting man, my money’s on Chuk.”
But Enekwechi, although he would be “ecstatic” to get the record, is not as caught up in the chase for the record as most people following his progress.
“With the record, honestly, I’m a lot less interested with the record than people would believe, just because I’m more concerned about scoring well for the remainder of the team,” Enekwechi said. “Personal records come when they come, but I don’t have a specific distance in mind.”
Lihrman and Enekwechi may be the No. 1 and No. 2 throwers in Division-I history, respectively, but they’re much different competitors. According to Purdue’s throwers coach Keith McBride, Enekwechi is at a slight disadvantage from a size perspective.
“Lihrman is 6-foot-5 with a 7-foot-plus wingspan. Chuk is 5-foot-11 with maybe a 6-foot-half-inch wingspan,” McBride said. “Lihrman has an advantage on us with just the length of the implement. The further you can get the ball away from you and stay strong, the farther it’s going to go.”
However, McBride said Enekwechi has a one-up on Lihrman: strength. Recently, Enekwechi box squatted 815 pounds. His thighs are larger than some of his teammates waists. That’s where Enekwechi, despite having shorter arms, can compensate.
“He’s the strongest man on this campus,” McBride said. “He’s the strongest guy throwing right now altogether. But he still doesn’t use his strength the best he can. That’s where he has to grow still, but he can do it. There’s no one as dedicated as him.”
For Enekwechi, staying relaxed, both physically and mentally, will be the key to him overcoming Lihrman. While most people try to listen to loud, thumping music before meets or games, Enekwechi is doing the opposite. Quieter music and a calmer state of mind are key to helping Enekwechi throw his best distance.
“I don’t try to get amped up (before I throw),” Enekwechi said. “Before I threw 80 feet, I listened to Keyshia Cole and some Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. I’m not really an angry person, so the more relaxed I am, the better I throw. If I get angry, I’ll start muscling it and look like a novice in the ring.”
The Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships will take place Friday and Saturday in Geneva, Ohio.