Before he became one of the best high school discus throwers in Orange County history, Andy Marrone was one of the most erratic.
Sure, there were occasional signs of greatness, but most often Marrone suffered from a serious case of foul-itis, the tendency to foul when the pressure was on .
"We're talking serious fouling, bad news fouling," said Marrone, a Dana Hills High School senior.
Last year, Marrone fouled out--fouling on all six of his attempts--in every major competition. It got to be so bad that Marrone began venting his frustration on the nearest fence.
"I have a bad temper as it is," he said. "But I hurt my foot kicking fences. I fouled out in a meet against El Toro last year, and kicked a pole in this fence. I kind of learned my lesson there."
Marrone threw the discus 192 feet 1 inch Friday in the Southern Section 4-A championships, breaking the 4-A record of 185-10 set in 1987 by Royal's Dave Bultman.
Marrone's throw--fifth-best in the nation this year--also moved him into the No. 2 spot on the county's all-time discus list. Brian Blutreich, now at UCLA, set the county record of 210-8 in 1985 while at Capistrano Valley.
The throw also earned Marrone something other than his first-place medal--a new car. Two days before his record throw, Marrone's parents told him if he attained his year-long goal of throwing more than 190 feet, they would buy him the car of his choice. Less than 24 hours after his record throw, Marrone was driving what he called "the whole primo four-wheel drive vehicle."
"It wasn't easy for them," said Marrone, who admitted that his parents had promised him a car for graduation anyway. "I even made them sign a contract. No kidding. My parents are tricky people."
Tonight, Marrone will be top-seeded in the discus at the Southern Section Masters meet, which begins at 5:30 at Cerritos College. Last year, Marrone finished eighth in the Masters meet, in which the top nine performers in each event from the division finals compete.
While Marrone fouled on two of his six throws last week, he seems to have overcome the slump that he experienced last season. But the fear of fouling still creeps within him.
"Every meet, I fear that I'm going to foul--fouling out without a decent throw, or without any throw at all," he said. "At the (4-A) prelims, we only (were allowed) three throws--I was scared to death. I've feared (fouling out) every meet, every single meet."
Marrone says he has tried positive thinking--at least Dana Hills Coach Eric Benson always encourages him too--but he finds it difficult.
"Coach Benson always tells me 'Never think negative. Always think positive,' " Marrone said. "But it's impossible almost. I can't help it."
So Marrone works instead on his best aspect--his technique. Good technique also is important to Marrone, who, at 6 feet 3, 200 pounds, is smaller than many of his discus-throwing peers.
"One of our biggest battles is trying to get him to gain weight," Benson said. "He's 25 to 45 pounds (lighter) than most of his competitors. He does it with technique."
It was Benson who first noticed Marrone's potential five years ago in an eighth-grade physical education class that Benson teaches at Niguel Hills Junior High in Laguna Niguel.
"Andy has real long levers--long arms and long legs . . . a lot of tools," Benson said. "I had mentioned to him just in passing, 'Hey, have you ever thought of throwing the discus?' He really didn't know what the discus was."
Now he knows the discus quite well. So well, in fact, that Benson often has Marrone practice with a college-size discus, one that is heavier and slightly wider than those used at the high school level.
"I want that high school discus to feel like a toy," Benson told Marrone during a practice at Saddleback College Monday.
Marrone, an All-Southern Section linebacker who will attend Nevada Las Vegas on a football scholarship, hopes to better his 192-1 throw tonight, but his first priority is to be among the top five who will advance to the state meet. Only then will he concentrate on breaking the 200-foot barrier.
"(Throwing more than 190 feet) was my goal all year," Marrone said. "I wanted to say 200, but I wanted to go with something more within my reach. I think 200 is attainable, but it has to be a perfect throw."