Storm Lake powerhouse lands 4th among universities at Drake Relays; hopes to heal injuries in time to lift Hawkeyes in nationals, and take a shot for the Games
He had just hurled 16 pounds of iron - the unyielding cannonball capable of ripping an athlete's sinew from the bone - for 56 feet and four inches. And he'd just done it at the track mecca of Iowa to tie for fourth place honors amongst a murderer's row of some of the strongest throwing athletes in the country.
The look on his face says it all.
"Not good enough," it clearly reads. "Not far enough. Never far enough."
Storm Lake native Shane Maier performed through a painful case of tendonitis to finish in the top five in the national university shot put finals at the Drake Relays Friday.
The University of Iowa senior, a former two-time state champ and two-time high school Drake winner for Storm Lake High School, finished 52" behind the winner, Aaron Studt from Minnesota.
Perspective: The very heaviest standard bowling ball allowed is 16 pounds. Now, go toss one the distance from a major league baseball pitcher's mound to home plate or a bit beyond. There, now you've got a rough idea.
At Iowa, that metal ball matters. In a field of 22 throwers in from major universities from Florida to Arizona, the Hawkeyes finished with all three of their competitors in the top five.
Maier will be wrapping up an exceptional career with the Hawkeyes this spring, having been team co-captain, three-time NCAA Championships qualifier, and 2007 Big Ten Indoor champion, owning career best throws of over 62 feet. He just won Iowa's invitational in discus too, 171 feet and change.
The health and sports studies major has also been an all-academic letterwinner for the past two seasons. He is the son of Dan and Lynda Maier of Storm Lake.
"Shane is probably the strongest guy on campus, regardless of sport," longtime Iowa coaching staff member Scott Cappos said. "His work ethic really drives his success. He's a great leader."
Iowa's three nationally-known throwers all push each other and feed off each other, the coach said. "That makes for a great group atmosphere and takes the program to a higher level."
Performing through pain is also nothing new for the big man from Storm Lake, who is hard to miss even in a strength sport, checking in at 6'3" and just under 300 pounds. Earlier in his career he suffered a meniscus tear in his knee that required four months of rehab, and last spring, he underwent knee surgery. In February he injured a pectoral muscle, and now the tendonitis is compromising his throwing technique somewhat - which explains that less-than-satisfied look on his face.
He will have an MRI done on his elbow this week to see how much damage has been done, but plans to continue competing, with the Big 10 Championships coming up in May, and hopefully one more NCAA Championships trip to follow.
"Shane isn't going to give up. He's had these nagging injuries before, and he says he will work through them," his father, Dan said after receiving news on the situation Sunday.
Those who remember Shane from SLHS aren't surprised.
"He's done some phenomenal things. The kid has just worked his tail off to get where he is.
"He was probably 220-230 pounds in high school, and now he's probably 290, and that's all come from the weight room," says John Brostad, one of the SLHS coaches.
"He works at it every day and works on weights every day, 12 months a year. It's been two years since he's been home, because he won't take a day off," his father added.
Competition won't end here for Shane. If he can regain his distance of a year or two ago, he could still have a shot to qualify for the 2008 U.S. Olympic team.
His father said that it appears the cutoff to qualify will be around 62 feet, with about the top 24 collegiate performers making the initial cut.
The Storm Lake native has thrown that distance, and if he can overcome injuries, he is close to doing it again.
He is a "glider" style thrower, while most of today's top competitors are "spinners." Shane is considering an attempt to convert to spin style as soon as he is done competing for Iowa, in an attempt to hit a long throw in a qualifier event before the Olympics.
If he doesn't make the Games this year, he could possibly be there in four years - in an entirely different sport.
He has recently worked with a former U.S. Olympic weight-lifting coach, and plans to pursue competitive Olympic-style lifting in the future, as well as continuing to compete in open events for track.
There is more to being a successful thrower than a beefy superstructure, as Maier demonstrates.
"Strength is a key," Maier said. "But you also need speed, quickness and you have to be a technician of your specific event. Strength and speed can only take you so far. That's why you have to practice every day - it's repetition, repetition, repetition."
The same discipline that has made him a force in college track throwing events is now driving his career aspirations as well.
Maier received a bachelor's degree in health and sport studies in 2007, and the fifth year senior is working toward additional studies for a career in health coaching, according to information from the U of I.
After his graduation, he and an experienced partner who has worked with Olympic athletes plan to locate in a Chicago suburb and open their own sports performance training facility, where Shane will work with youth and amateur athletes of all kinds.
When you've spent four years going head-to-head with that unforgiving iron orb, fast-tracking your life goals suddenly doesn't feel like a challenge too heavy to contemplate.