Layla Spann-McDonald, a junior at Glastonbury High School, is making a name for herself on a national level, recently becoming an All-American in track and field.
Spann-McDonald finished 13th overall in the Weight Throw Championship at The New Balance Indoor Track and Field National Championship in New York on March 11. She then placed 5th in the Weight Throw and 6th in the Shot Put at the Adidas Indoor Nationals in Virginia Beach, VA on March 19 and 20.
Both of her tosses in the weight throw were personal-bests. At the New Balance Championship, she tossed 20-pound-weight 44.5 feet. At the Adidas National, she reached 45.1 feet.
She described the experience at the New Balance Championships as “overwhelming”, but settled down once she found her fellow throwers.
“I have never seen that many people in such a compact area. I felt very intimidated and then I walked to the throwing area and I saw my friend and she calmed me down,” said Spann-McDonald
The 16-year old first started throwing in grade school and has expanded her repertoire of throws ever since.
Along with the weight throw and shot put, she also excels at the hammer throw and discus.
The weight throw and hammer throw are not part of Connecticut high schools track and field.
Spann-McDonald, who prefers the hammer throw to the weight throw, qualifies for regional and national tournaments by attending local competitions in either Massachusetts or New York.
Last spring she finished 4th overall in the discus at the Class LL outdoor track finals and this past winter she had a personal-record throw of 35’2.5” in the shot put during the indoor season.
Her throwing days started after a discussion with her parents. Both her mom and dad were runners in track and, after giving dance a try, she joined track and field.
She started as a runner before realizing she had a talent for projecting heavy objects through the air.
Her twin sister, Zoe Spann-McDonald, also joined the track team and now excels at hurdling at GHS.
“I think we drive each other,” Layla said of the relationship with Zoe, who is a minute older. “At the [New Balance] meet she was telling me I was going to do good and just to focus. I focused that day and it really showed.”
Over the years she said she has “learned to love the process”, along with improving her throwing form.
“Technique is way more important than strength. Strength is an element but you really want to work on your technique. You can be really strong and have terrible technique and not throw it far. You need both,” she said.
She credits her success with being both mentally and physically prepared. To get ready for a meet she listened to music and positive affirmations, adding that she now feels confident heading into a meet thanks to the hard work she puts in leading up.
“My dad tells me practice is where you win your medals,” she said. “He says every time you throw you should throw like it’s a competition in practice.”
Spann-McDonald said her confidence began to really grow during the state competitions last spring when the Guardians won the Class LL state tournament and finished as the runner-up in the State Open.
Last spring was her first real chance because her freshman outdoor season was cancelled and her sophomore winter season was basically a wash because of Covid.
Now a junior, she enters this spring as one of the favorites in both the shot put and discus.
She described the throwing group at GHS as “tight-knit” and now helps the younger throwers with their technique and by encouraging them.
Her plan for this spring is simple, “My goal is to keep my confidence up and try my best.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin