Imagine a guy they call “Diesel” as a tennis player. Or as a sprinter.
Sounds crazy, but that’s how Sean “Diesel” Ferriter, who will go down as one of the all-time track and field greats in Butte history, started his career in high school spring sports.
“I started out in high school actually on the tennis team the first day,” the 2010 Butte Central graduate says. “I quit that and went to the track team and was a sprinter for a day. That was too hard. Then I met Kato.”
“Kato” is Butte Central throwing coach John Rolich.
“He’s just a cool dude,” Ferriter says. “He’s awesome. That’s why I probably started. I liked him so much, and then I just got into it. He is a good coach. That’s just kind of honestly how it happened.”
That eventually led to Ferriter signing to compete for the Montana State track team in Bozeman in February 2010. It turned out to be a very good move for the Bobcats and Ferriter.
Next Wednesday, Ferriter will compete in the hammer throw at the NCAA National Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. He placed seventh in the NCAA West Regional last week in Austin, Texas, with a throw of 210 feet, 8 inches.
“There was a big crowd down there,” Ferriter says. “There were a lot of people. That was the most I’ve seen. It was packed. It was a lot of fun.”
It was also pretty dramatic.
“I didn’t make it until my last throw,” Ferriter says. “They don’t do finals there, either. You only get three throws, so it was really nerve wracking. I was in 15th after my second throw, and they take the top 12. Then, in my last throw I moved into seventh.”
Ferriter’s throw was a foot off his personal record of 211-08. He did that at the Big Sky Conference Outdoor Championships.
Heading in, Ferriter suspected a throw in that vicinity would send him to nationals.
“I knew if I threw well I would make it because that’s usually what my good throws were,” he said. “But you’ve got to do it at that time. It was a relief to do it. That was probably the highlight of my whole athletic career, making that.”
He also made Butte history.
Longtime Butte High track coach Charlie Merrifield said he believes Ferriter is the first Butte athlete to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor meet.
“I can’t think of anybody else going to nationals,” Merrifield said.
Bob Hawke, a 1964 Butte High graduate and member of the Butte Sports Hall of Fame, competed in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in the shot put when he competed for Wisconsin. Hawke, though, didn’t qualify for the outdoor meet because his career was cut short by a badly broken arm.
“That’s remarkable, really,” said Butte Central President Don Peoples Jr., Ferriter’s high school football coach. “Butte should be proud of him, that’s for sure.”
A few years ago Ferriter would have never considered he would go this far in the hammer throw. In fact, before he went to MSU he had never even heard of it.
Most states don’t have the hammer throw in high school competition, and Ferriter signed with the Bobcats because of his success in the discus and shot put. He placed second in the Class A State meet in the discus twice and in the shot put once.
“I came here mostly for disk,” Ferriter says. “Our coach has everyone kind of try hammer throw because nobody does it in high school. I started doing it, and over time it just started passing up my discus.
“Once I got a little bit better I realized I could go a lot farther in the hammer than the discus. I wasn’t much of a disc thrower when I got here. I was just kind of mediocre.”
The hammer is a 16-pound ball attached to a line about four feet line that is just under 4 feet. The indoor weight throw is similar to the hammer throw. The weight has a shorter line and weighs 35 pounds.
As a fifth-year senior this season, Ferriter really took off. He won nearly every regular-season competition he competed in the hammer and the weight. He placed second in the Big Sky Indoor meet in the weight throw with a mark of 66 feet, 1 ½ inch.
Last month, Ferriter placed second in the hammer throw at the Big Sky Outdoor Championships in Cheney, Washington. That’s when launched the hammer 211-08 for his personal record.
Sean Ferriter’s PR 211-8 at BSC to take the lead.
Posted by Mike Carignan on Sunday, May 17, 2015
At both conference meets, Eastern Washington’s Jordan Arakawa topped Ferriter. Arakawa threw the 218-01 in the hammer throw last month.
“He’s always the one who always beat me,” Ferriter says. “He was actually ranked sixth in the region, but he didn’t make it to nationals. He had a bad knee.”
Long-time MSU throwing coach Mike Carignan told Colter Nuanez of Bobcat Beat that Ferriter is one of the best throwers he coached.
“He’s one of the greatest,” Carignan told Nuanez. “There have been a few others. But I’d put him in the top three or four. He did come in with a little bit of aid. But did anybody think he would throw the weight that far, probably not.”
The 6-foot, 225-pound Ferriter threw a bit of a curve ball to followers of Montana sports when he signed with the Bobcats. That’s because, like his younger brother Marcus after him, Ferriter was so good at football for the Maroons.
He was a dominating force on the offensive and defensive lines for the Maroons. Ferriter was All-State at defensive end as a junior and a senior. He was also All-State as an offensive tackle as a senior.
“He was an outstanding football player,” said Peoples, who has been the head football coach at Butte Central since 1989. “He played a lot of varsity for us as a freshman, which, for us, is rare.”
As a freshman, Ferriter played a tight end, H-back position for the Maroons. The next three seasons he started on both sides of the ball.
Playing at about 210 pounds as a senior, Ferriter was named the Central A Defensive MVP while leading the Maroons to the semifinals of the Class A State playoffs. BC fell to eventual champion Frenchtown a week before the State Championship game.
“He was always a great kid, too,” Peoples said. “He lived up to that Ferriter family tradition.”
On the basketball court, Ferriter was the defensive specialist for a Maroon team that beat Browning to win the Central A Divisional title in Great Falls. BC advanced to the semifinals of the Class A State tournament at the Butte Civic Center before losing out.
“I guess I had to,” Ferriter says of playing the defensive role. “It was the only way I could play. I wasn’t much of an offensive player.”
As good as he was in football, though, Ferriter didn’t get the looks he wanted to from college football coaches.
“At the NAIA level I had a couple offers,” says Ferriter, who grew up a fan of the Montana Grizzlies. “I got talked to a little bit from the Griz, and I just never really pursued it.”
So Ferriter, whose younger brother will walk on with the MSU football team, chose the path of obscurity that is track and field.
Track athletes don’t get the media attention or fanfare that basketball and football players receive. In fact, at first Ferriter wasn’t even known by his nickname, “Diesel,” at MSU.
That name was given to him by his older brother Steven at a young age. Steven Ferriter, by the way, also gave Marcus Ferriter the nickname “Satch.”
“I don’t even call him Marcus,” Sean Ferriter says. “He’s Satch.”
By the end of his career, though, Bobcat fans got to know “Diesel” because of his success.
“It slowly made its way over,” Ferriter says. “There was a ‘Diesel’ chant at regionals.”
Learning how to throw the hammer was also an adjustment for Ferriter. While it is thrown from a ring like the discus, the hammer is much different.
“It’s totally opposite of what you do in the discus,” Ferriter says. “In the disc it’s about how much torque you can build up. In this it’s how much ball speed you can build up, but it doesn’t deal with torque at all. You let the ball go in front of you, actually, instead of get it behind you like in the disc. It’s kind of crazy at first to learn.”
Technique is critical to the hammer throw, Ferriter says.
“That’s basically what 90 percent of it seems to be,” he says. “With the throws, sometimes the technique is more of the battle than the strength.”
He apparently caught on pretty fast. In 2013, as a redshirt sophomore, Ferriter advanced to the West Regional, where he placed 42nd. He took 38th at the regional as a junior, and he improved more than eight feet on his PR.
Ferriter’s best mark through his junior year was 201-03. It was 193-0 after his sophomore season. He shared the “Most Improved” award on the team following that junior season.
His PR of 211-08 is nipping at the heels of the school record. David Phillips holds that mark after launching the hammer 213-02 in 2013.
Ferriter has been working hard to top Phillips’ mark.
“His commitment level is really high,” MSU head track coach Dale Kennedy told Nuanez. “His commitment level is up there with someone like (senior distance runner) Cristian Soratos, someone who is out there running 80, 90 miles a week. He’s training at that level in the weight room comparatively. We really don’t have anyone in our program that is more committed than Sean Ferriter.”
Practice for the hammer throw, Ferriter says, is basically throwing the hammer.
“You just throw. A lot. Full reps. There are not too many drills we really do,” he says. “We just keep on throwing.”
Ferriter basically gave up the discus and specialized in the one event the last couple of seasons.
“I did in a couple of meets this year for some points, like in the Cat-Griz dual,” he says. “But I don’t practice it. I stopped doing the disc two years ago, basically. I was basically maxed out in the college disc.”
During his historic run, Ferriter also found to be a team player for his family. He made the trip to Laurel to cheer on his brother Marcus at the Class A State meet. The younger Ferriter placed second in the shot put and then won the discus.
“It was something I could never do,” Sean Ferriter says of winning a State title. “That was cool. I was happy for him, and I was there watching him.”
Ferriter is one of four Bobcats making the trip to the NCAAs. Paige Squire will compete in the 400-meter after placing 12th at the regional, while Heather Demorest will run in the 3,000-meter steeplechase after breaking her own school record and taking ninth last week.
Also, Soratos will run the 1,500-meter race. He took third at the regional.
The meet, which will be televised on ESPN, runs through Saturday, and Ferriter will stick around to cheer on his Bobcat teammates all four days.
The following Monday, Ferriter, who graduated with a degree in chemical engineering, will move to Richland, Washington, to start his new job.
Conor McCullough, the USC star who won the regional meet with a throw of 246 feet, 1 inch, will likely win the meet, Ferriter says.
“He’s been throwing forever,” he says. “His dad (also Conor) was in the Olympics for hammer throw. I think he’ll will win with 250, which will also win the Olympic trials next year. He got fourth at the last Olympic trials. He’s good.”
Ferriter isn’t going into the meet with thoughts of shocking the world and bringing home the gold. He says jumps in a personal best like that just don’t happen in this event.
“Sometimes in the javelin you’ll see crazy jumps like that,” he says. “In the hammer it’s more of a gradual incline. You can jump up like five feet. Sometimes you’ll see kids go like eight feet.”
So the pressure is off Ferriter, who had no idea he was the first Butte athlete to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. He said he is just happy to be competing with guys who are at the world-class level, something he probably wouldn’t have experienced that if he would have stuck with tennis so the sprints.
“That’s kind of the cool part,” he says. “It will be cool to throw against some of these guys and then you’ll see them in the Olympics next year hopefully.
“There’s nothing really after this, and there’s not any way you’re going to win or get second in my spot. It’s going to be kind of a fun meet. I’ve never been to that track, Hayward. People say it’s awesome.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that Ferriter isn’t heading to the meet with some big-time goals. He figures he could get a mark of 215 or 216 feet if he gets off his best throw at the right time.
“I think it’s the first eight are first-team All-American and the next team would be second-team All-American,” Ferriter says. “I guess my main goal is I still haven’t got that school record.” 4 comments