VERGENNES/LISLE, Ill. — Throwing some weight around has proven very rewarding for Ron McConnell of Vergennes.
McConnell, 51, recently earned two gold medals and a bronze at the USA Masters Throws Championships. The USA Track & Field event took place Aug. 3 and 4 at Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill.
He won golds in the Men’s 50-54 Division for Throws Pentathlon and Superweight, and took bronze in the Ultra Weight Pentathlon.
McConnell, who works as the fitness, pools and operations director at the Swimming Hole fitness center in Stowe, started competing in pentathlons — contests with five track and field events — as a way to stay in shape. The contests also allow him to continue competing in his favorite throwing event — javelin. He took first place in his age group in javelin at the 2011 World Masters Athletics Championships in Sacramento, Calif., after launching his spear 58 meters.
In the Throws Pentathlon this month, McConnell finished with an overall score of 3,749 points, more than 200 points higher than the second-place finisher and a personal best. His distances were 42.47 meters in the hammer throw, 12.29 meters in shot put, 40.05 meters in discus, 55.53 meters in javelin, and 15.34 meters in the weight throw.
His javelin throw was more than 24 meters farther than his closest competitor.
“The javelin is my favorite event and it’s my specialty,” McConnell said. “I was able to gain some points there.”
In the Superweight event, McConnell heaved a 56-pound weight 7.9 meters (about 26 feet) to take gold.
In the final event of the weekend he won a bronze in the Ultra Weight Pentathlon, in which competitors throw objects of 25, 56, 98, 200 and 300 pounds. McConnell threw personal best distances of 3.31 and .73 meters in the 98- and 200-pound implements, respectively. He actually led the field after the 25- and 56-pound weights.
“The trick is to remain upright in that event,” McConnell said with a laugh. “I threw the 300-pound weight two and a half feet. It’s a fun event, fun to watch.”
McConnell is lucky to be competing at all. Last year, he fell on a deck while spending time with his grandkids and injured his back.
“My right side was almost completely shut down. I could hardly lift my arm,” he said. “They (the doctors) wanted to fuse it, but I started doing mobility and balance work and concentrated on core training.”
It took a lot of work to come back from the three herniated discs and a compressed spinal cord.
“I feel pretty lucky to have been there,” he said.
McConnell is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a Health/Fitness Specialist, which qualifies him to help special populations, such as cancer patients and those reconditioning after injuries. He does most of his training at the Swimming Hole, but he also practices his throws and does some other training at Middlebury College or Vergennes Union High School. He said he also does CrossFit training, lifting and gymnastics, plus flips big tractor tires with his wife, Amy, who is a certified wellness specialist and healthy lifestyle coach.
He credits Amy for his general health, making sure he exercises and eats well. The couple has three children and six grandchildren.
Ron McConnell will be back in action on Sept. 7 in Chelmsford, Mass., at the Throwathon, an all-day throwing marathon using different size throwing implements.