Story by Cassie Campise
Perry High School senior Makayla Long broke the Arizona state shot put record at the Red Mountain Rampage meet on April 2nd with a 53’ 3” throw.
It’s moments like these that make all the hard work and countless hours of practice worth it for Long. Right after the distance was measured and it was confirmed she beat the record, she was filled with excitement, hugging her coaches and everyone around her. It was quite the achievement.
“Obviously I was ecstatic. I have worked really hard on shot put,” Long said. “It’s kind of been a rocky ride and a lot of ups and downs. So being able to hit that mark was really exciting and I hope to continue to get better and get past that 53 mark.”
Long’s typical day consists of a two hour track practice, two hour lift, and an endurance workout all after school ends at 12 p.m. She trains with a private coach, Ryan Whiting, who is a two-time world champion and Olympian who competed in college at Arizona State.
One of Whiting’s other athletes, Makayla Hunter, who is a senior at Chandler High School, previously held the record. The two train together often and challenge one another with Whiting guiding them along the way.
“It was amazing to see how far she broke it by,” Whiting said. “It was a nice breakthrough for her and really good to see her kind of get out of her training…It was good to see her get a really good result.”
Whiting was recommended to train Long from her previous trainer, Brian Gunnarson, who helped her with explosive movements and techniques for discus.
Whiting said it has been a great experience working with Long and seeing her improve. She’s very coachable and has soaked everything in from the moment the duo started working together.
“She is always hungry for information and she’s always asking the right questions,” Whiting said. “She has improved pretty quickly, but she gets frustrated with herself because she wants it to move faster. It’s been a really fun process for both me learning and her becoming the athlete that she’s going to be.”
Last year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was challenging for Long to be recruited in team sports like volleyball and basketball, but it wasn’t long until she was getting attention from Division I schools in track.
“Track was kind of really the only open door still to get heavily recruited for that because it was all online and you could submit your numbers,” Long explained.
Long would send videos out and continue to get better at shot put and discus. She received between 10-20 offers but narrowed it down to Baylor and UCLA. It ultimately came down to the atmosphere at the different universities.
“The Christian atmosphere at Baylor and the family minded people, they take care of each other,” she said. “The professors there want you to succeed and they’re not trying to just weed you out.”
The small town feel of Waco, Texas was also a big consideration factor Long loved about Baylor. It reminded her of where she grew up in Colorado until seventh grade when her family moved to Oregon to get more exposure from colleges for her and her two brothers.
But before attending college next year, she hopes to continue her success. Some of Long’s short-term goals are to win the State Championship and national meet in Arcadia, California, but the biggest goal is to make it to the Olympic Trials this year.
Long’s going to keep pushing herself and shooting for the stars, and hopes to set more records as she rounds out her final year at Perry.
“One of my lasting goals is to try to make it to the Olympic trials this year in the discus,” she said. “However, I don’t know how realistic that is, but we will try.”