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Shotputter Shellie Lovati Really Has Grip on Things

Times Staff Writer

It should be easy to distinguish Shellie Lovati of El Modena High School among the 27 participants in the girls’ shotput today at the CIF state track and field preliminaries at Cerritos College in Norwalk.

Lovati will be the one searching for her favorite shot--a grippy, 8 1/2-pound metal ball with lots of grooves that she put 44 feet, 1 1/2 inches last week in the Masters Meet.

Lovati’s personal-best mark was the third longest in the state behind Brandi Gail of Rowland (47-4 1/2) and Tracy Crawford of San Diego Southwest (45-3 3/4). Lovati’s mark was achieved with a shot that was among an assortment of three provided to all competitors by the state CIF.

“It was the first meet that I wasn’t allowed to use my own shot,” Lovati said. “They provided the shots for the competition. I found one with a lot of grooves that was great.”

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If Lovati appears to be fickle, it’s for good reason. The 18-year-old senior has had problems with shots that have slipped out of her hands. When she finally bought a grippy shot, she found that it weighed almost nine pounds.

During warm-ups, Lovati will utilize a 10-pound shot to help correct a flaw in her technique.

“I have problems snapping my wrist,” she said. “My hand tends to go flat instead of snapping. I found that when I warm up with a 10-pound shot, my wrist will snap correctly in competition.”

Lovati has spent most of the second half of the season correcting some bad habits she acquired when her position coach, Greg Eirich, was not retained this season. Eirich had coached Lovati for two seasons and also served as her weight training coach at a local racquetball club.

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Lovati and her parents convinced school officials to bring back Eirich as an additional assistant for the final six weeks of the season, and her marks have improved considerably.

“All summer, I was throwing 42 to 44 feet working out on my own,” Lovati said. “When the season started, I was only throwing 40 feet, and I got depressed. I picked up some bad habits, and I wasn’t getting the coaching that I had gotten with Greg.

“Greg has been like a big brother to me. He knows how to calm me down. At the Masters Meet, I was warming up at 46 feet and only threw 43 feet on my first attempt. I got down, but Greg boosted my confidence.”

Eirich, a former star football player at El Modena, said Lovati has peaked at the conclusion of the track season in each of the past three years. She improved from 36 to 39 feet in her sophomore season, went from 39 to 42 feet last year and progressed from 42 to 44 feet this season.

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“Shellie has peaked at the right time each season,” he said. “She was having some problems during the year, but I kept telling her, ‘Don’t worry. You’ll be among the best at the end of the season.’

“I’ve been coaching girls for five years, and it’s a pleasure to work with someone like Shellie. You only have to tell her something once and she understands. She’s always up for a meet.”

Lovati began putting the shot as a ninth-grader at McPherson Junior High in Orange. But when she arrived at El Modena, she decided to try out for the Vanguards’ softball team instead of competing in track.

“Playing softball just seemed like more fun to me,” she said. “But when I got on the team, the coach told me that if I didn’t throw the shotput, then I’d sit on the bench.”

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