Lanzi a quick study

BRADENTON — Something happened to Anthony Lanzi the first time he picked up the shot.

Scratch that.

Instead, let’s look at what didn’t happen to Lanzi the first time he picked up the heavy round ball that soars through the air at track and field meets.

It didn’t feel weird. It didn’t feel strange. It didn’t feel too heavy.

“It felt natural,” Lanzi said. “I just wanted to go out there and start throwing as soon as I picked it up.”

He doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. A rising junior at Southeast, the 16-year-old Lanzi finished third at the ESPN Rise Games AAU National Championships in Orlando earlier this month, earning a spot in this summer’s AAU Junior National Olympics in Norfolk, Va.

Not bad for someone who never considered a field event until this spring. Similar to most of the boys born and raised and Bradenton, Lanzi has been playing football for over half his life and served as a center last season for the Seminoles.

Southeast’s offensive line coach, Daniel Bradshaw, coached the field team’s throwers, too.

So Lanzi decided to give the shot a shot.

“It was either that or weightlifting (in the spring), and I had done weightlifting the year before,” Lanzi said. “So I decided to try something new.”

Lanzi was a complete neophyte to anything track and field, having never watched a full meet from the bleachers. But all he knew was that second he made his first throw, he felt good.

And he WAS good, too, finishing eighth during the Class 2A-District 11 meet.

“All the strength and time you put into it,” Lanzi said, “looked like something I could get into.”

It wasn’t all easy. Lanzi had to learn how to sync his footwork with his arm, making sure he was ready to throw the second his foot hit the ground.

But with help from Sarasota’s Zack Larrabee and Andy Vince of Throws Coach Florida in Clermont — which added five feet to his throw, Lanzi said — Lanzi began to polish the rough edges and put some technique behind his raw power.

So Larrabee suggested he head to Orlando for the national championships. Initially, Lanzi hoped to finish in the top 10.

Instead, his throw of 41 feet, 4 1/2 inches earned him a pair of medals.

“I was glad he wanted to do something different. Every kid needs options,” said his mother, Ann Marie. “He gets out of it what he puts into it, and there’s no grey area — the numbers speak for themselves. So I was thrilled with that.”

Lanzi doesn’t plan on stopping with the shot — he plans on focusing more on the discus and hammer next season, and will continue to work with Vince.

“That just makes him more attractive to college,” Ann Marie said.

That said, he isn’t turning his back on football. Lanzi plans on suiting up this summer for Southeast, and believes his foray into the field events will make him a better lineman.

“Footwork, speed and explosion,” he said. “When you’re going to go hit someone, it’s like when you’re throwing (the shot) — you just have to let it all go.”

But it’s the shot, discus and hammer Lanzi would like to pursue in college. Quite a change from the kid who this time last year, never tried any of those events.

“I would like that a lot,” Lanzi said, “if I could go to college and go throw. That’s a goal of mine that I would like to do. That’s pretty cool.”