East Valley-Scottsdale Tribune

MCC’s Battle comes away big winner

When Sheldon Battle took a recruiting trip from New York to the University of Kansas during his senior year in high school, the Jayhawks didn’t have enough available spots to offer him a scholarship. Two years later, the same school that produced Olympic track stars from Jim Ryun to Billy Mills to Al Oerter will welcome the Mesa Community College star thrower to its fold with open arms.

Battle capped his two-year career with the Thunderbirds in stellar fashion last weekend, winning the discus and the shot put events and placing second in the hammer at NJCAA Outdoor Championships at South Plains (Texas) College. He was named the outstanding individual athlete of the meet and was personally responsible for more than half of Mesa’s 51 team points – earning the team a fifth place finish.

Former Chaparral High star and Scottsdale Community College freshman Sara Galasky won the 1.500 meters for the Artichokes at the same meet.

“It was a good weekend and an exciting way to finish up,” said Battle, who came into the meet ranked first in the shot and discus and second in the hammer, holding form with his performances. “For a long time the discus was my favorite event, but I think it’s switched to the shot now. I’ve made a lot of improvements and I think that’s why it has more of my attention now. But I plan on still doing all three events as I always have.”

Nationally ranked at Jamestown (N.Y) High School, Battle wound up at nearby University of Buffalo after Kansas throwing coach Doug Reynolds, a former Phoenix Greenway High and University of Arizona star, was unable to find room with the Jayhawks. But MCC throwing coach Jay Olson heard about Battle – and after a glowing recommendation from his friend Reynolds – offered Battle a chance to throw year-round at MCC, with the great weather and first-rate facilities.

“Doug told Sheldon that if he wanted to get to Kansas this was the way to get there,” Olson said.

At 6-foot-1 and 255 pounds, Battle gives up about 50 pounds to even most junior college throwers. But his outstanding technique and work ethic more than makes up for the disparity.

“Sheldon obviously has a lot of talent,” said Olson, whose son, Clay, is also a thrower for Mesa. “But the key is to have the talent meet up with the right coaching and right situation.”

Reynolds won’t just be coaching Battle, he’ll be training right beside him at Kansas. He placed fourth at the U.S. trials last year and is a favorite to this year to win a spot on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team headed for Athens.

“I think I’ll get a lot of insight by watching someone like him,” Battle said. “I want to go as far as I can in track.”

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