By Meredith Foster Ristic
Watching him in the ring, you probably wouldn’t guess that the 6’2”, 260 pound senior from Vista, CA spends most of his time outside of practice excitedly watching for new cloud formations. But, you also probably wouldn’t guess that he used to play baseball, either.
Kurt Hibert, an atmospheric sciences major, with a double minor in math and history has transitioned from a NCAA Division I baseball recruit to weight-throwing weatherman.
Before his sophomore year in college, he had no experience with track and field except for his good genes. Kurt’s father, Jay Hibert, threw throughout college and participated in the 1988 U.S. Olympic trials for the hammer throw.
“I’ve always known Kurt could be a successful thrower, but when he was younger, I wanted him to do whatever he wanted,” Jay Hibert said.
Kurt wanted baseball. In the fall of 2009, Hibert traveled 2,286 miles from Vista, California, to North Carolina to play baseball at UNC Asheville.
“It was the furthest school away from home, and it was pretty much a change of everything for me,” Hibert said. “But, it seemed like the most promising option for me.”
The California native started pitching his freshman year of high school, and was recruited by UNC Asheville to play in the fall of 2009.
“I didn’t play much my freshman year,” he said. “I lost almost 30 pounds, and my velocity took a hit.”
At the end of his first year, he was told that there would be a big recruiting class of pitchers coming in the following year, and that they would probably be making some cuts, Hibert said.
“I figured I had two options,” he said. “I could transfer schools and pursue baseball somewhere else, or I could stay here and try something else.”
Hibert didn’t make the decision to start throwing entirely on his own.
“I actually called my brother who was a senior in high school at the time and told him my situation,” Hibert commented.
Immediately he said, dude, you have to throw, Hibert said.
“So I approached the track coaches and told them that I wanted to throw and they agreed to give me a shot,” he said.
When he returned home the summer of 2010, his dad gave him a crash course in throwing.
“He threw every day that summer,” said Jay Hibert. “Some people were critical of the work volume, but I had no choice; he had no experience.”
That summer, Kurt competed unattached for his first meet.
“It was actually funny, Kurt had thrown the disc maybe three or four times, and the two time Olympic champion in the disc showed up to compete,” Jay said. “It was pretty cool for him to get to see someone with that kind of experience.”
Kurt really just worked his butt off all summer. The athletic ability to do it was there, but he also knew that Kurt wouldn’t be competitive right away his first season, Jay said.
“One thing that I think Kurt appreciated about the sport right away is that once you throw a certain mark, nobody can take that away from you,” Jay commented. “Numbers are numbers.”
When he returned to UNC Asheville in the fall of 2010, he really focused on achieving his goals, said Joel Williams, Bulldogs throws coach.
“I think Kurt has always set really high aspirations for himself, but since his sophomore year he’s gotten a lot better about not beating himself up if he didn’t do as well as he wanted to,” Williams said.
He’s one that actually needed to temper the timing expectation of some of his goals, but he’s very realistic, commented Williams.
“Kurt has an excellent kinesthetic awareness, he is good about knowing where his body is in space” added Williams “When you tell him to make an adjustment, he’ll fix it the very next rep.”
Hibert’s spacial awareness helps him to develop a feel for the technical side of throwing, Williams said.
“For someone without hardly any throwing background he has made some big improvements every year,” Williams said.
Since his first year competing, Hibert has improved two meters in discus, five meters in the weight, 12 meters in the hammer and almost four meters in the shot put.
“Kurt had a personal record in the weight throw early in the season with 17.59 meters,” Williams said. “Since then, he hasn’t bested that, but he’s close to getting a really good one.”
“He is becoming more consistent as the season goes on,” Williams said. “Part of that has to do with him continually improving his feel for the event.”
Currently, for indoor events, Hibert holds the all-time school record for the weight throw with 17.59 meters. In outdoor events, he holds the all-time record in the hammer throw with 56.53 meters, 6th in shot put with 13.73 meters and is 4th in discus with 46.79.
“Before I leave UNC Asheville, I really want to win conference in the hammer, and then hopefully go to regionals then nationals,” Hibert said. “I’m also hoping to beat my dad’s collegiate bests.”
In college, Jay Hibert threw 50.63 meters in the discus, 63.73 meters in the hammer and 15.7 in the shot put.
“Oh heck yeah, I told Kurt that I want him to break my records,” Jay said. “I’m convinced that he’ll do it.”
This indoor season, Kurt is ranked 4th in the Big South conference in weight, and 15th in shot.