The first time Ryan Andrews picked up the shot and spun around to throw it, he said he felt awkward. It was just him and a ball inside the ring.
He went to Newport Harbor High to play football. The throwing, he thought that was what quarterbacks do.
All Andrews wanted to do was block as a fullback and tackle as a linebacker.
Then he met Tony Ciarelli. The football program's longtime defensive coordinator introduced Andrews to throwing in track and field. Three years later, carrying a 12-pound ball feels as normal as carrying books on campus for Andrews.
The senior is now one of the state's top throwers in the shot put. Andrews thanks Ciarelli for turning him into one of the best.
Last week at the 44th annual Arcadia Invitational, Andrews showed how far he could launch the ball. He recorded a personal-best mark of 59 feet, eight inches, good for third place at the prestigious event at Arcadia High.
The trip to Arcadia was Andrews' second and most productive. He said he arrived more focused and comfortable. The result was a throw that topped his previous best by 2½ inches and now ranks fifth in the state.
The best were in Arcadia, giving Andrews the chance to measure up to the likes of Nicholas Scarvelis of Goleta Dos Pueblos and Stephen Boals of Carmichael Jesuit. Scarvelis and Boals are the state's top two throwers and they finished ahead of Andrews in Arcadia, finishing with marks of 64-1¾ and 59-9, respectively.
While it is unlikely Andrews can throw with Scarvelis, he is not too far behind Boals.
"I went to a prior meet and I threw bad against him," said Andrews, referring to the Stanford Invitational on March 26, when Andrews placed third with a throw of 52-11¾, almost seven feet behind Boals' first-place mark.
Andrews redeemed himself in Arcadia. He was two inches short of surpassing Boals.
An advantage Andrews has is that he has one of the top throws coaches in the country in Ciarelli. It also benefits Andrews that he gets to work out with four other strong throwers.
On a daily basis, there is a throwing meet at Newport Harbor. Andrews competes with junior Steve Michaelsen, senior JB Salem, senior Trevor Lawrence and junior Ethan Cochran. They push one another.
"It helps a lot just knowing the guys that you will compete against are the guys you work out with," said Andrews, who saw Salem place ninth and Michaelsen 13th in the shot put in Arcadia. "It is a close race between almost all the guys."
The five have each recorded throws over 55 feet this season, a first for so many to do so from one school.
Andrews said the five want to go down as the best throwers at Newport Harbor.
"We want to be remembered," said Andrews, who understands he has a lot of work left.
In his final high school year, Andrews' goal is to reach the CIF Southern Section Masters meet and CIF State finals and place. What drives Andrews is how he ended last season, unable to advance out of the CIF Southern Section Division II finals to Masters.
The season ended on a downer for Andrews. He knows in a do-or-die event like the shot put that there are not many opportunities.
"You have to be able to pop that big throw when it counts," Andrews said. "There is a lot of pressure, because it does not matter what your teammates do. It is all about you, how you perform. That is why I fell in love with throwing."
Track and field is now Andrews' favorite sport, bypassing football.
Andrews said he is not interested in playing football in college, even though Army showed interest in the first-team All-Sunset League player. The 6-foot-1, 250-pounder said he has plans of walking on at UCLA to throw for the men's track and field program.
If he gets there, Andrews will show that spinning and throwing is no longer awkward for him to do. It feels all natural.
Hometown: Newport Beach
Born: June 16, 1993
Weight: 250 pounds
Sport: Boys' track and field
Event: Shot put
Coach: Tony Ciarelli
Favorite movie: "Gladiator"
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite athletic moment: "Winning one of the scholarship awards on the football team."
Week in review: Andrews recorded a personal-best mark of 59 feet, eight inches and placed third in the shot put at the 44th annual Arcadia Invitational.