April 12, 2012
By Amy Hughes
Hammer throw practices have become a family affair for UCLA track & field coach Mike Maynard.
Maynard's star pupil, sophomore Alec Faldermeyer, burst onto the collegiate scene in 2011, earning first-team All-America honors in the hammer throw with a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship and a sixth-place finish in the weight throw at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
"He's doing a great job," said Maynard. "Any time you score at [NCAAs], it's something special. But to take a true freshman, throw him into the fire so to speak, and have him come out successful, it's very good."
This season, Alec has been joined on the team by his older sister, Andrea. She has one remaining season of eligibility, is a Cornell graduate with a bachelor's degree in government, and is currently a first-year law student at UCLA.
In most cases, the younger sibling follows their older sibling to practices, picking up a new sport along the way. In this case, Alec was the leader, throwing the shot put and discus throughout middle school and into high school. During his freshman year in high school, Alec's father Alan strongly encouraged him to do indoor track with Minisink Valley High School coach Kevin Sullivan, who had coached several high school All-Americans in the hammer and weight. Sullivan became Alec's private coach, and a family pastime was born.
"[Hammer] was just so different from the shot put and discus," said Alec. "It was different than what everyone else was doing and I loved it."
Alec and his father would eventually put a cement practice ring in the family's Goshen, N.Y., backyard. One day they took Andrea out there so she could give the sport a try.
"I heard my dad and Alec talking about [the hammer throw] so often," said Andrea. "I love watching it, and I really wanted to try it."
Andrea Faldermeyer was able to follow that interest as a member of the Cornell track and field team. She started the training and lifting routines that had been the focus of her peers for years. She was improving and enjoying the sport until a serious injury brought it to a screeching halt.
"Until I tore my Achilles that April, I didn't realize how much I loved throwing," said Andrea. "Once I realized that I might not be able to go back to throwing, I knew that I didn't want to give it up. Going into my senior year (at Cornell) when I was applying to law schools, there was never any question that if I could go back and start throwing again, I would. And, I would try to get as much eligibility as I was able. I was going to try to get my four years in, even if it killed me and I had to do it during my first year of law school. It was never a question that I would continue throwing."
For most first-year law students, their class schedule and academic demands are barely manageable. Andrea has chosen to add some substantial responsibilities to her list and is making it all work.
"I think it's partially being really concerned with time management," said Andrea of the apparent ease with which she handles her daunting schedule. "But it's also really committing to the idea that when I'm in law school, when I'm in my classes and when I'm doing my assignments for law school, I'm focusing on that. When I'm at the track or when I'm in the weight room, throwing or doing track things, I'm focused on that.
"When you do that, you get much more out of whatever you're doing. So if I'm focusing on throwing and not on the assignments that I have due later, I'll get a lot more out of my throwing session than I would if I was letting myself get bogged down in worry."
"She'll come to practice and say `I have a 30-page memo that's due tomorrow that I have to work on,'" said Alec. "And I think `Oh, well I have a two-page paper due next week that I have to work on.'"
In some families, an elder sibling's entry into a collegiate atmosphere could be traumatic for the established younger brother. Not so for Alec and Andrea.
"It's awesome," said Alec of his sister's arrival at UCLA. "When we were growing up together, I feel like we weren't really that close. Then all of a sudden she went to college, and I didn't see her as much, and we became a lot closer. Now she's out here, and we've become even closer."
His sister's work ethic has always been apparent to Alec Faldermeyer, but the extent of her organization and skills has become even clearer now that the siblings are on the same college campus.
Alec marveled at Andrea's multi-tasking when she was at Cornell competing on the track team, working at the library, serving as a peer review chair and even playing club volleyball, all while maintaining a high GPA in the government school of the prestigious Ivy League university.
"She's able to multi-task and do all of that and keep a level of excellence in all of them that just blows me away," Alec said. "It's hard enough for me to maintain having track and school and still having friends. For her, she can do all of that with relative ease, it appears. I know she works incredibly hard, but from the outside looking in, it looks like she does everything pretty easily. She came to UCLA, which has a great law program and a great athletic team with a great history. You're expected to achieve a certain level of excellence, and she's doing it."
The Faldermeyers help and inspire each other on a daily basis, something that they are both enjoying to the fullest. " Andrea stated that part of the reason she came to Westwood was knowing that her brother would help her adapt to being at UCLA. "He was great, especially in the beginning when I didn't know too many people," she said. "He took me around and introduced me to all the coaches and people I needed to know. He's also been great with throwing. If Coach Maynard isn't out there on the track to help me, [Alec] has been really great helping me with my technique."
In addition to helping his big sister, Alec Faldermeyer is busy building on the athletic success he started a year ago. During the indoor season, he captured the MPSF weight throw title and placed fifth in that event at the NCAA Championships. Now his focus has shifted to the hammer throw, including the remainder of the collegiate season and competing at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
"He's just such a confident young man," said Maynard. "In the best sense of the phrase, he has that blue-collar East Coast mentality. There's just no stopping him once he has his mind set to do something. He's stubbornly competitive but so coachable. He takes direction and instruction so well, and he just wants to be excellent."
As for the newest Faldermeyer to join the Bruins stable of throwers, Maynard has enjoyed Andrea's presence on the team as well.
"Andrea is a really bright person," said Maynard. "She's happy, she's easy to be around, and she wants to get better. Her forté is more in academics, but she has been a pleasure to be around as a student-athlete, and she really wants to improve too. As siblings, I can say that the thing that they hold in common is that they're both overachievers in their own way."
Maynard clearly enjoys coaching Alec and Andrea and has been impressed by their relationship with each other.
"What's really kind of neat is to watch the interplay and positive relationship between the brother and sister," said Maynard. "I have a 22-year old daughter and a 19-year old son, and they're just kind of getting to the healthy place where Andrea and Alec are. It's kind of fun as a parent to see how that relationship dynamic plays out. Getting to coach both of them, who are just great people anyway, but at the same time see the brother/sister relationship, it's a lot of fun. They are both a pleasure to coach."