Chrisman coach Tyler Rathke's Midwest Elite Throws Camp continues to grow in reputation and size

Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner
Grain Valley High School's McKenah Sears, center, works on her javelin throwing at the Midwest Elite Throws Camp put on by William Chrisman track and field head coach Tyler Rathke at Liberty North High School. Sears earned a state medal in the javelin as a freshman

LIBERTY — Sometime in May, Tyler Rathke decided to forge ahead with another Midwest Elite Throws Camp. 

What would’ve been the third year of the camp for high schoolers who throw javelin, shot put or discus was called off in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

He kept on fielding questions if the camp was going to be held this year and the William Chrisman track and field head coach finally pulled the trigger to hold the third edition of the camp. 

Within a month, the 120 spots were filled and a waiting list followed. 

The two-day camp was moved from Chrisman to Liberty North due to construction of a softball field and tennis court on the Chrisman campus. 

More:Freshman Ariana Jackson leads Blue Springs track to third-place state finish

The first day of the camp on Tuesday focused on discus and shot put, while on Wednesday those who attended the camp worked on hammer/weight throws in the morning and javelin in the afternoon. 

“We want to provide an opportunity for them to be seen by college coaches and get instructions they can latch on and change the trajectory of their career, even if it is only a one- or two-day camp,” Rathke said. 

The camp featured coaches from the NCAA Division I and II level, as well as NAIA and NJCAA. Also, there was former Missouri thrower Reinhard Van Zyl and two-time Olympic javelin thrower Duncan Atwood, the keynote instructor who flew in for the camp. 

William Chrisman track and field head coach Tyler Rathke, center (in red), watches as a participant in his Midwest Elite Throws Camp works on the javelin. Rathke's camp has grown in reputation and scale and included a thrower from Nashville this year after returning from a 2020 hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The idea of the camp came to Rathke as he traveled across the country with former Chrisman football and throwing standout Daniel Carson, who would later sign with Texas. 

“I watched coaches in the stands evaluate kids who pay money and they are paying money to go through drills and not get instruction,” Rathke said. “Here, the kids are evaluated and get instruction, building relationships that are equally valuable for the coaches and the athletes. 

“In track and field they see a number on a piece of paper on MoMileSplit and you are recruited on that number or don’t. And if you are don’t kid, you may have all the measurables and attitude, but if you don’t have a coach that knows what you are doing … this puts you in front of college coaches that can see that you are recruitable even if it is just character or attitude or effort. 

“It’s a win-win because college coaches can see other skills you don’t see on paper. Every year, every single coach wants to come back. I will have like 50 coaches here someday, but we will figure it out and grow it out to multiple sites or cities.” 

More:Blue Springs relay teams expected to make splash at Class 5 Missouri State Track and Field Championship

A majority of those at the camp came from Missouri. Rathke estimated about 90 percent from the Show-Me State, about eight percent from Kansas and two from the rest of the country. There were plenty of local athletes, from Fort Osage, Blue Springs, Blue Springs South, Grain Valley and Liberty. But you also had some from towns like Kirksville, Cassville, Lakeland, Cole Camp, Russellville, as well as Eudora and Hanover, Kansas, and even as far as Nashville. 

The Tennessean at the camp was Drake Carlson from Father Ryan High School and threw 54 feet in the shot put. He is a Power-5 football recruit who has offers from Vanderbilt, Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. 

Rathke noted there were several boys throwers who eclipsed 55 feet in the shot put and upwards of 170 feet in the discus. 

“I post it (camp info) on Facebook and Twitter but I don’t advertise,” Rathke said. “Coaches share and the reach is bigger and bigger. I have no idea how a kid from Nashville shows up, but it is pretty cool. A couple years ago we had a kid from South Dakota that was a 200-foot discus thrower show up out of nowhere.” 

Blue Springs South's Madison Hoffman works on her javelin throwing at the Midwest Elite Throws Camp run by William Chrisman coach Tyler Rathke. The third version of the camp, which has grown into one of the premier throwing camps in the region and the country, was held at Liberty North High School because Chrisman is constructing a softball field and tennis courts.

The javelin portion featured Class 5 Missouri state runner-up Bryce Kazmaier from Francis Howell – who is headed to the University of North Carolina in the fall – and a pair of Class 5 medalists on the girls side in Grain Valley’s McKenah Sears (third) and Blue Springs South’s Madison Hoffman (eighth). 

“Just getting the instruction and figuring out techniques and the little things I can improve on is really helpful,” said Sears, who set the school record in her freshman season. 

She took part in the javelin and discus portion of the camp but her favorite was the javelin, where she will be the highest-placing returning medalist in the event next spring. 

More:Blue Springs, Grain Valley track and field make noise at district meet

Her throwing coach, David Allie, helped get her in the camp. Sears received instruction from a handful of college coaches on minute details in throwing the javelin, like the angle in your hand, running, hip movement and sweeping your leg through the throw. 

Hoffman was primarily a shot put and javelin thrower her first year for Blue Springs South but tested out the discus event on day one of the camp. 

In the javelin event, she was in the same throwing group as Sears. 

“(Tuesday) was pretty big, I didn’t know the discus or shot put as much, so I like how they (the coaches) broke it down into steps,” Hoffman said. “Then I learned how to fix issues I have in javelin. The instruction was good and having (the college) coaches was nice.” 

Hoffman said she will work on trying to keep her front leg locked after releasing the javelin, while working on her shuffle down the runway. 

Cole Reeder of Blue Springs listens to instruction at the Midwest Elite Throws Camp this week. The camp, run by William Chrisman coach Tyler Rathke, was at full capacity of 120 and had a waiting list for its third version.

Also at the camp was sophomore-to-be Cole Reeder from Blue Springs. The son of Blue Springs girls track and field head coach Jennifer Reeder, he only took part in the javelin portion of the camp. 

He has attended many throwing camps but enjoyed this one – which wrapped up a little bit early on Wednesday before a downpour arrived. 

“I am trying to get better and trying to get stronger,” Reeder said. “I thought it was pretty good. It helped me out with things, like working on steps and getting more power on the throw.”