Masters newbie Torbert ups M60 goal after setting American record

Doug Torbert

Doug Torbert

When I first heard of the M60 American shot put record by Quenton Torbert, I said: “Quenton who?” Turns out he’s better known as Doug. But he’s also a rookie to masters track, starting just after his 2011 retirement from teaching and coaching. So he truly is an out-of-the-woodwork story. But after breaking a Joe Keshmiri record, he’s established a name for himself. And come Oct. 19 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, he should be able to call himself something else: world champion. Doug uses the old glide technique — just as he did in high school and college. He hopes to reach 56-7 with the 5K shot, he reports in a Q&A he graciously consented to this week. Welcome to masters, Doug, and kick butt in Brazil!

Doug wears SoCal Track Club color at Olathe nationals. From left to right at the M60 shot are George Murphy, Gary Schmidt, Joe Myers, Doug, Tim Muller and Ed Hearn.

Doug wears SoCal TC colors at Olathe. From left is the M60 shot field of George Murphy, Gary Schmidt, Joe Myers, Doug, Tim Muller and Ed Hearn.

Masterstrack.com: Tell me about yourself — where you live, your career, your family (cats, dogs, kids, wife?)

Doug Torbert: Although my real name is Quenton — that’s how I’m registered with USATF — I have always gone by Doug. Either name is OK with me. I live in Redlands, California, with my wife, Susan, who is a surgical nurse at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

I have two college age kids — Cody, who is just finishing up at Cal State University Northridge as an art major, and Kara, who graduated from Berkeley as a geology major a year ago and just finished a year in Austin, Texas, as an Americorp volunteer. I retired in 2011 after 36 years as an art teacher. During that time, I also coached varsity football (20 years/ defensive coordinator) and track (throws) at Rubidoux High School in Riverside, California.

Did you throw as a kid? What were your best marks, and when? Who did you compete for?

In addition to playing football, I threw the shot put at Lowell High School, Whittier, California, as did both of my brothers. My best throw was 56-3 my senior year in 1969. Four years later (1973) my younger brother Rich threw over 61 feet — one of the top marks in the state. My twin brother Dave (longtime head track coach at Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley) threw over 57 feet for Cal State University at Fullerton. I threw for one year in college after a long time off while attending Oregon College of Education, an NAIA school in Monmouth. My best throw was 51 feet in 1973.

You’ve made some major improvements in recent months. What’s behind this? Better strength? Skill?

There’s a couple of reasons I’ve been able to continually improve. Firstly, I was not in good shape when I started in December 2011 so there was only one way to go and I already knew how to throw “skinny” — that is, without being particularly strong.

When I threw in high school 1966-69, lifting was not a major part of training. We finally got a weight machine my junior year but mainly we just threw — 100 throws every workout. There were three of us in high school who consistently threw over 55 feet and not one of us weighed over 175 lbs.

So I think the muscle memory of throwing that I retained was suited for throwing as an “old man.” My first throw as a master was last year and was over 14 meters. Secondly, I had accumulated a lot of knowledge about lifting/training while in college, especially while coaching (clinics, experience), and, with valuable input from other masters throwers, have been able to adapt the concepts to my current training.

I also have lots of time to train since retiring. Lastly, the ongoing recovery from an elbow injury I sustained last year has allowed me to throw more, with good progress, over last six months. Still, it’s impossible to sustain continuous improvement and I have started to level off somewhat, regardless of how hard I work, so I’m focused on throwing as far as I can as fast as I can.

Who coaches or advises you? Any secrets you can share?

Last year, I begin using a golf analysis app called Ubersense with my iPad to analyze video of my technique. Most of my technique improvement, however, is a result of coaching observations from my two brothers and other knowledgable masters athletes. I’ve told Bill Harvey, for example, the former Occidental track coach, that I owe him a meter for his coaching observations over the last year.

Training secrets? Hmmmm. I think that strengthening the shoulders “lightens” the shot and gives you the most improvement for the training effort as a masters thrower. I do a lot of one-armed overhead dumbbell presses because they engage core muscles while also mimicking the throwing movement.

Where do you train, and what’s a sample weight workout, throws workout?

I have a full-sized shot put ring and throwing area in my back yard (and a very understanding wife). I train at the Redlands YMCA and do some plyometric work at the nearby college. I have a couple of 8-week training routines and rotate between them to peak for the outdoor nationals. Basically, one is for strength and the other focuses on explosive power. I do basic lifts and about a dozen shot specific lifts. I spend one to two hours for four to six days a week training. I throw two to four days per week and anywhere from 30 to 60 throws.

Was your Fort Collins mark measured by a steel tape?

The Fort Collins throw was measured by a steel tape. I could not have chosen a better meet at which to break the record. Tim Edwards was in charge of throws at that meet, and he was fantastic. He let me know a month before the meet that the entire field was designed for throwing and that it was one of the few in the country that had been surveyed and certified.

After the record throw, the competition was halted while the measurement was confirmed using a steel tape, my shot was immediately taken to be weighed and certified, and certification paperwork initiated. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the venue and thoroughness with which Tim and the other officials certified the record throw.

What was your series at Fort Collins?

I actually had a better series at the nationals, where I had three throws within 4 inches of the record. At Fort Collins, I only had one other throw over 16 meters besides the record 16.67-meter throw, which was my first throw. To be honest, it was hard to focus on the next five throws after the record. I was ready to celebrate.

How did you react to the American record? Did others realize it, too?

It was odd… Because the furthest chalk line was at 12 meters, it was difficult to tell how far it went. Usually there would be an excited reaction from observers and other throwers but the only verbal comments were “Nice opener” and “Nice one.”

As they were pulling the tape, I saw that the 54-foot mark (Keshmiri’s record) was on the throwing area side of the toe-board and I knew I had it. I looked at my daughter Kara and my friend Dave Tucker from high school and mouthed “That’s it!” It was a great feeling.

I don’t know whether to categorize this as sad or funny but my wife, son and friend Dave’s family decided to make a quick stop at Starbucks before the competition and arrived just after my first throw which turned out to be “the throw.” When they all showed up, coffees in hand, my daughter said, “Dad just broke the American record!” My wife scoffed, “Oh yeah, right.”

What’s it mean to beat a Joe Keshmiri record?

Early in 2012, I put a painted white stake with Joe’s record on it at 16.46 meters in my throwing area and have been aiming at it for the past year and a half. I never met Joe personally but I remember observing firsthand his joy and enthusiasm while he was watching/coaching his son Kamy.

I was coaching throws at Rubidoux High School (probably late ’80s) when Kamy was the number one high school discus thrower in the country. At the Mt. SAC Invitational, Kamy would look up into the stands after every throw and there was Joe standing in the midst of the other spectators simulating discus throws, pointing to his hips, communicating over hundreds of feet with gestures that only his son would understand. To be associated in any way with the father I observed, the former Olympian, the American record holder for 15 years is a real honor.

Did you hope for a record at Olathe? Would it have counted given the sloping field issue?

I did think I could get the record at Olathe but, although I had a good series,

I never had one that felt great. Given the uncertified throws areas, I’m glad it happened at Ft. Collins instead. I really feel for the athletes who had their records nullified.

You’re among 20 shot entrants at Porto Alegre. Can you break the U.S. record again?

My main goal in Porto Alegre is to perform well and enjoy the experience of international competition. I’m still throwing well and with a little luck I think I could get it again. A lot of depends on the wait time between throws, number of warmup throws, fatigue, slickness of the ring, shade, etc. By the way, The M60 division had three throwers (Tim Muller, Joe Myers, and myself) over 15 meters at the nationals. To put that in perspective, those throws would have given us a good chance at sweeping the upcoming world championships.

Do you think Klaus Liedtke’s WR of 18.37 (60-3 1/4) is possible? What’s your take on its legitimacy?

I don’t think Liedke’s record is possible for me. Even if I could get two more feet out of my technique and two more feet by increasing my strength, I’d still be short. It might be possible, with a little luck, to have the farthest “non-suspect” M60 throw. I recently replaced the Keshmiri American record stake in my backyard throwing area with one placed at 17.25 meters (56-7 1/4).

How far could you throw the 16-pound shot today? Have you tried in practice?

I don’t throw a 16-pound shot, but I practice quite a bit with a 15-pound shot. My best standing throw with the 15-pounder is 43 feet and my best glide is 47 feet.

What’s YOUR reason for competing in masters track?

The first time I stood in the ring last year, after 40 years, brought back so many nearly forgotten, joyful memories. It’s a good place to be when, for a few moments, your biggest concern is how far you can push a steel ball. I enjoy sharing the experience with my friends and family, especially my shot putter brothers and high school track teammate and lifelong friend Dave Tucker.

I most of all enjoy getting to know and admire the other throwers. Nationally, Ed Hearn, Tim Muller and Joe Myers are all great competitors and good guys that I’ve gotten to know a little bit. Locally, I really enjoy the camaraderie and encouragement from the So Cal throwers I see all the time including M55 Greg Holden, M65 Bob Richardson and M70 Ken Hurlbert, who were all a big help to me when I was first getting started as well as M65 Bill Harvey who has become my “go to” coach of late. I’m going to enjoy this masters thing for many years to come.

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September 17, 2013

12 Responses

  1. Charles Roll - September 17, 2013

    Great interview. Its nice to see a thrower highlighted. Great throw, Doug. Keep it going.
    All the best.

  2. tb - September 17, 2013

    Great questions, thoughtful answers. Good luck in Brazil!

  3. Grant Lamothe - September 17, 2013

    Hi Quenton/Doug:
    Looking forward to hopefully meeting you in Porto Alegre. Hope you do well there! From a mediocre -but enthusiastic- way-too-old thrower-Grant

  4. Mark Cleary - September 18, 2013

    Quenton, Congrats on the American record- I am so happy for you-see you in Brazil !

  5. Barry Warmerdam - September 18, 2013

    Thanks, Ken, for an interesting article. Always nice to hear about throwers, especially in my age group. Congratulations, Doug, and keep up the good work!

  6. Rita Hanscom - September 19, 2013

    Nice work on your performance, Doug. Congrats on your well-earned record. And welcome to masters track. All of us staying home wish you the best of luck at Worlds!
    And thank you for a fabulous interview, full of great information, especially the use of Ubersense. I’d never heard of it until this post. Yesterday I loaded it, for free, onto my ipad, bought a tripod mount for my ipad, and had a really fun high jump practice this morning. For everyone who trains alone, this app is perfect. There’s a 10 second delay so you can get ready, then the video clip can be played back frame by frame, forwards, backwards, and you can compare side-by-side videos, and overlay them. So fun! Thanks for mentioning this.

  7. PR - September 25, 2013

    Great article and inspiring athlete, will be looking for the SP podium full of Americans in Brazil!

  8. Ken Hurlbert - October 30, 2013

    Hey, Quenton! Really a great interview; very helpful to me as a new thrower after 50 years off. Every time I see you at a meet I’m uplifted and inspired to try to do more. The next time I see you I’ll be 74, and I still hope to improve and move up to #1 US ranking. I think I end this year at #4, but that won’t stop me. I also think you’ll seriously improve for who knows how many more years. See you in 2014, my friend.

  9. Ken Stone - October 30, 2013

    Quenton easily won shot at Porto Alegre:

    M60 Shot Put
    =====================
    WMA: # 18.37m
    Name Age Team Finals
    =====================
    1 3927 Torbert, Quenton M61 United State 16.29m
    2 3643 Staheli, Hansruedi M63 Switzerland 14.31m
    3 3272 Krankowski, Waclaw M62 Poland 14.03m
    4 3347 Valentin Ruiz, Vir M60 Puerto Rico 13.23m
    5 3804 Hearn, Edward M64 United State 13.11m

  10. Teresa Ziemke - November 20, 2013

    Hey Doug, I’m very glad and happy for you. Thelma told me about your win for the World Champion Shot Put.
    Now I can say I know someone who is a class athlete. Take care and best of luck in your future meets. Teresa

  11. Jeff Williams - April 5, 2014

    Hi Doug,
    Congratulations on your achievements! I have many fond memories of competing with you and Dave on Lowell High’s B shot put team in the 1968 track season. If I remember correctly, the three of us usually finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd at almost every meet.
    I wish you continued success on your revived track endeavors.
    Jeff, (class of 68)

  12. Doug Torbert - May 21, 2014

    Thank you everybody for the kind words and support. It’s great to hear from old friends. Hope all is well in Oklahoma Teresa – miss those days in the snackbar. Jeff, you were the only one of us with any muscles! Maybe you have a few throws left in you…I’ll bet Robbie’s still playing drums with a bunch of old guys somewhere…
    Doug

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