Junior Ciara Demarest had already been on the throwing side of track and field for quite a while by the time she entered the halls of Williamstown High School as one of the Braves.
But upon reaching the high school level, Demarest suffered an injury that kept her from working at the sport during her freshman and sophomore seasons.
“I had a knee injury during my freshman year that caused me to miss going to states because of it,” Demarest said. “Then I missed most of my sophomore year, too, because of it while I was still working to get back.
“COVID kind of worked out in my favor for track in a way,” she added, “because at that time, I was on crutches throughout much of quarantine.”
Demarest’s goal of reaching 40 feet in her signature winter track event, shot put, was therefore put on hold due to her injury. But she recovered nicely at the end of the 2020-’21 school year and has been back in the thrower’s circle for the Braves this indoor season.
During the past NJSIAA South Jersey Group 4 sectional meet, the junior surpassed the 40-foot mark for the first time in her high-school career, thus claiming her first individual sectional title while once again punching her ticket to states, which she will finally get to compete in this year after missing out two years ago.
Winning the event at sectionals, she said, was a long time coming, especially because Demarest has completely changed her throwing mechanics this season, making the switch from gliding to spinning, to get even more distance on her throw.
“It felt great to be able to finally do that; I’ve been waiting since my freshman year to hit 40 feet,” Demarest said. “Finally reaching 40 feet was such a relief.”
Demarest’s switch was a major change and also pretty rough at the beginning, she said.
Gliding is the simpler approach for a thrower to grasp in events like discus and shot put, while spinning involves plenty of footwork and increased speed.
While Demarest does shot put during the indoor season, she later throws discus during the outdoor season, having taken to gliding during indoors and to spinning during outdoors. The problem is that the throwing circles for the two events are different sizes, meaning the technique needed to get comfortable with either form takes serious time to master.
As a result, getting used to the spinning approach with a smaller circle for indoor was a serious challenge for Demarest compared with what she did during outdoor discus in previous seasons.
“I’d done gliding for five years for shot put, so making that switch to spinning was a really big deal,” she said. “Discus has a bigger circle, so a lot of training and footwork have to go into making that switch.”
Excited to finally compete in the state meet she came so close to during her freshman season, Demarest has now set her sights on a goal of 42 feet and to qualify for the Meet of Champions.
Williamstown indoor head coach Magan Winters said the drive and perseverance she’s seen from the hard-throwing Demarest in the last three years has been incredibly courageous and moving.
“Having met Ciara for the first time during her freshman year, she was just so impressive to me for everything that she is across the board,” Winters said. “She’s strong, she’s dedicated, she throws herself wholly into the sport.
“She pushes herself so hard and is clearly one of the most dedicated athletes I’ve had the chance to coach thus far,” the coach added.
Having recovered from the knee injury she battled for two years, Demarest has improved inch by inch in the current winter season to get herself to where she is now, Winters said.
“Realistically, we all thought she could take first in the sectional meet,” said Winters of Demarest. “She’s worked so hard to get herself to where she is now, and she’s managed to push her measurements further and further as the season’s gone along.
“Her hitting 40 feet was a big [personal record] for her. We couldn’t be more excited for her.”