In 2021, Kelly Walsh shot putter Cameron Burkett dominated. His toss of 61-1 at the state championships beat the next best thrower by almost four feet. This year he hopes to build off of his new state record throw of 64-9, unleashed at the Camel Qualifier in Gillette.
I sat down with Burkett recently and asked about his progress this year. He opened last season with throws in the 52 foot range, then worked up to his state winning effort. "I slowly progressed until state, and then I got a three foot PR. If I can three foot PR again and throw a 67, that would be crazy." Burkett opened this year's outdoor season over 58 feet, so a personal record (PR) over 67 feet isn't so far fetched.
Burkett's throwing style is smooth and efficient. He relies on solid technique to throw well, and enters the ring with confidence. He might have the build of a spinner, but he executes the glide with precision. He finishes his throw with feet planted and little effort wasted. "My coach and I have worked on my toe to toe glide, instead of my heal to toe, and that's really put me at a huge advantage." Beside honing his technique, Burkett seems to enjoy himself while he's throwing. It doesn't look like he's trying to figure his technique out in the ring -- he's just there to compete.
Burkett is not an especially large human by shot put standards, but he's strong, and knows a few tricks. "My biggest strength, beside my physical strength, would be my flick at the end of my throw. The flick usually saves a lot of my throws -- instead of a 51 it's a 58 because the flick extends it all the way." Most prep throwers struggle to develop solid technical skills. Cam's gains this year point to his dedication and the expertise of Coaches Lijewski and Olsen. Burkett said that this season didn't start the way he would have liked. "Even though I started at a 58, I wanted a 60, so that really got in my head for the first couple meets. But then, talking to my coach, I started calming down, fixing stuff, actually working toward getting better at my technique. Once we started doing that, everything started to progress nicely." Obviously, the coaching is paying off during competition.
I confessed to Cam that, as a photographer, I tend to focus on sprints, hurdles, and jumps. Asked if he felt like the throws don't get enough love, Cam said, "It depends. There are some meets where it's just your parents watching you, and the other parents. Then there are some meets where a whole bunch of kids are coming over." It won't just be the kids and a couple parents at the state meet this year. With an amazing throw under his belt, and a state title his for the taking, expect a crowd.