Sports Women's Sports

Pride track and field’s Carly Markos among nation’s best in throwing

By Vin Gallo
Deputy Sports Editor

She surveys the sector with her light green eyes as she strides to the throwing circle. With faded white gloves wrapping her hands, the thrower clutches the handle with bare fingers. She takes deep breaths before beginning to spin, raising the weight to chest level, arms perfectly straightened. The thrower spins at a steady pace, her long blonde hair, tied into a tail, whipping in motion with her acceleration. Two spins stationary. Three spins towards the sector. Speed increasing for each whirl. Then the thrower lets go, and the weight flies, tagging the ground 59 feet away. Good for first place.

Another meet, another pair of wins in both the weight and hammer throw for Springfield College track and field’s Carly Markos.

Markos can easily recall when her track and field career began. The start of her tenure as a field athlete came out of the blue. Markos had entered her high school career as standout volleyball player and earned a spot on the varsity team for Wallkill High School as a freshman. Her coach, Natasha Kennedy, who also coached track and field, promptly strategized a plan for her first year middle blocker to stay in shape and build strength for her sophomore year.

“I said, ‘Alright, cool you want me to run [track & field]?’” recalled Markos. “And she said, ‘No, you can’t run very well, I want you to throw to get stronger.’”

It has been eight years since Markos’s decision to pick up the weights and hammers. After falling in love with the sport that was meant to strengthen her volleyball game, Markos has thrived in the track & field collegiate competition. As a senior this year, she has finished first in both weight and hammer events twice, and has claimed first place in at least one of the two events in five of the Pride’s six meets.  

Markos’s first memory as a college athlete reminisces a daunting first impression of track & field. After she practiced with the team, now-retired head coach Ken Klatka mentioned to the first year thrower that some of the athletes were staying to get a few extra reps in on the day. All of the participants were sprinters and long distance runners. After completing the workout with the track athletes, Markos headed to the weight room for an exercise more in her wheelhouse. There she met the acquaintance of All-American thrower John Dayton, who to a 5’9 Markos, appeared as a wall of muscle, two brawny arms popping from his shirt, which challenged even the most robust amount of weight.

“He’s six foot nine,” said Markos. “Like – huge. All I remember is looking at him in the weight room, and my face went pale. I thought, ‘I don’t think I belong here.’”

But Dayton proved to be a friendly giant. The junior thrower knew, as it traditionally goes with Springfield’s throwing athletes, that their roster was smaller than the list of track athletes. Dayton was one who embraced the program’s long standing history of upperclassmen teaching the underclassmen collegiate throwing.

“Right off the bat she seemed like she had a lot of potential,” he said. “The upperclassmen saw that she was really strong and that she could go really far with a little bit of work.”

And so Dayton showed the rookie the ropes – from the required form, to the small fixes that can buy one a couple of extra feet in distance.

“He took me under his wing,” Markos reflected. “It was so funny that I was afraid of him that first day.”

With strong teaching, Markos began her first outdoor season of track & field with seven of her first eight results cracking the top 10. That year she would qualify for the 2014 NEWMAC Outdoor Championship. Dayton is proud of the amount of steps Markos took in her first year.

“It was very obvious that she was someone who was willing to put in the work from the get-go,” he said. “There’s definitely a learning curve with throwing. She’s a good athlete, she’s good at picking up what you’re trying to say. The success that she’s had is the result of her holding herself to a high standard. She goes in with a very ‘go-get-it’ attitude. It’s really refreshing to see.”

History would repeat itself. Two years after Markos’s first encounter with Dayton in the weight room, sophomore Maria Travascio, then a freshman, found herself to be a bit timid when in the presence of the junior who had established herself as one of the best on the team.

“I was afraid of Carly when I first met her because she’s much older than me, and she’s an amazing thrower,” Travascio said. “I was really intimidated. But after we did preseason together she really took me under her wing.”

Travascio had ran two years of track in high school, but throwing was new to her. Markos made sure that the transition was smooth and dauntless.

“I had never touched a hammer or a weight before I came to college,” said Travascio. “Carly thought I’d be really good at it. I just needed to learn the footwork. So the first person who ever tried teaching me the footwork for hammer throw was Carly. And she really knew what she was talking about. You could tell she had a love for the sport. I wasn’t afraid to make mistakes in front of her. She’s kind of like the older sister I’ve never had.”

New Director of Cross Country and Track & Field Angelo Posillico believes that Markos’s willingness to lead affects the team in a positive way.

“The younger throwers look up to her,” said Posillico. “When you’re the best at something in a group, it doesn’t matter if you want to be a leader or not – you’re going to have to lead. The younger athletes are still looking at you, and trying to figure out what your doing so well because you’re the best one. Carly is someone who cares a lot about her teammates. There’s not one person on this team who would call her arrogant. She’s very supportive of the younger throwers.”

During his final year at the helm for Springfield’s track and field program, Klatka loved the strides that Markos was making as a junior. He predicted that there was more to come from her after claiming fourth place in the 2016 Division III New England Championships.

“[Placing] fourth, [in New England’s] is pretty awesome,” said Klatka. “She’s improved so much; she had a two foot PR in the shot, and her weight throw is about a foot further than what she threw last year [2015]. She’s very close to hitting a really big throw.”

The following year in the 2017 Dartmouth Classic, Markos planted a hammer throw 59 feet and 4.25 inches away from the circle. The heave shattered the school record of 55 feet, 9.25 inches, set in 2010 by Fatima Rose. The throw likely places her in a spot in the NCAA Championships in March.

Markos still reaches out to Klatka for support and consistently asks for his perspective on her throwing form. She will always share a strong bond with her coach who would give any of his track athletes any spare chocolate if they were low in spirits.

“He’s one of my favorite people in the world,” she said. “He brightens anyone’s day. I can go to him with anything. I still go to him today, after practice. Then I’ll go to coach and the three of us kind of work together.”

Markos and her throwing teammates have changed their approach and have upped the training under the guidance of Posillico.

“This year coach is having us throw heavier implements,” Markos said. “The weight’s 20 pounds and he has me throw the 30 pound or the 25 pound weight, just to get used to that to get stronger. But the main [method of training] for [our events] is weightlifting. We lift three times each week with a lot heavier weights. You can do the footwork and movements without being really strong, but without a lot of muscle to back it up, it’s not going to go as far as it could.”

Posillico has high expectations and ambitions for Markos, as the senior turns the final corner of her college career with the postseason on the horizon. When he first observed Markos compete, Posillico saw the small tweakable details in form, but also presented a different way for Markos to view the competition. Such mindset has revolutionized her results.

This past week in the Boston University Valentine’s Invitational, Markos was the 11th ranked thrower in the nation going up against Division II and I competitors. Posillico wanted Markos to study how her opponents executed, as well as the distance of their throws. “I told her, ‘Carly listen, this meet is about preparing for the environment at nationals where you’re throwing against some really good women,” said Posillico. “‘I want you to focus not only on yourself, but on what everyone else is doing. Don’t ignore the competition.”

After scoring a 15 on the first throw and a fouling on the second, Markos heaved a last-chance throw that landed 5 inches short of her personal record in the weight throw (18 feet, nine inches). The comeback heave landed Markos in the weight throw finals, where she ended the day by taking third place.

“To me that showed that she could be backed up into a stressful spot in a meet and still pull out a really good throw,” said Posillico.

Posillico admired Markos’s commitment to make changes as a four year athlete. “She’s a senior, she’s already been to nationals, and now she has a new coach,” he said. “That’s really hard when you’re already good and somebody’s telling you to do things differently. That takes a lot of maturity and a lot of trust.”

Even as a senior, Markos continues to grow as a thrower. This year, she is yet to be defeated by a Division III opponent. When combining all events since her junior year, in 45 meets, Markos has finished in the top 10 on 36 occasions. She has earned a first place finish 16 times in that span.

Markos will be the favorite when the championship matches begin.

“She’s the favorite in weight throw going into the competition,” said Posillico. “Everyone’s looking at you – the pressure’s on. But she’s been doing a great job. When she goes in, she’ll have a shot to compete for the win. I’m excited for her, she’s making a lot of progress.”

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