LAWRENCE — Ryan Doherty knew he wasn’t cut out to be a hurdler. The massive tumble was simply the painful confirmation.
“I was a JV hurdler and wasn’t very fast,” he said. “One day my sophomore year I took a huge spill where I caught both my arms and legs on a hurdle. I went down hard. That’s when I called it. That’s when everyone looked at me and knew I shouldn’t be hurdling.”
It wasn’t until after that embarrassing incident that Doherty even considered trying to throw a javelin, and it took until his junior indoor track season for the football standout to pick up a shot put.
But now, just over a year later, Central Catholic senior from Methuen has earned Eagle-Tribune All-Star honors in his two seasons focusing on the shot put, and ranks among the area’s best in the javelin.
“Ryan is just a born leader,” said Raiders head coach Mike Leal. “A few years ago he was a JV sprinter, just here to get in shape for football. Last year he really found throwing, and he has become an elite performer in multiple events. He just loves to compete.”
Last spring Doherty threw 52-8 1/2, best for an area athlete, earning Eagle-Tribune All-Star honors and this winter he was again an All-Star with a 51-9 3/4. In between he earned Eagle-Tribune football defensive MVP honors.
“I just love to compete,” he said. “I love throwing because I can compete against opponents and I can compete against myself and my best. I really didn’t see this success coming.”
Doherty, in fact, never intended to go out for track.
“I came to Central thinking football and baseball would be my thing,” he said. “But then I got cut from the baseball team, and it was really the football coaches telling us to do other sports and not be lazy. So I tried track, and running really wasn’t a good fit.”
Finally, towards the end of his sophomore spring season, Doherty decided to give the javelin a try.
“I really wasn’t a standout at first,” he said. “It was very awkward, going from a baseball throwing style to the javelin. Then, I was talking to (former Eagle-Tribune All-Star) Devon Lattrell.
“We were out for a meet and he said something about following through on my throws. I went out and threw one and it went 160 (feet) and everyone started looking around at me. I was thinking, ‘Oh, I get it now.’”
As for shot put, he decided to give that a try on the advice of Eagle-Tribune All-Star linebacker, Santino Brancato.
“Santino was throwing and said that the shot put guys were real characters,” said Doherty. “So I decided to give it a shot and it ended up coming to me pretty easily. The glide was very natural. Then things really started to pick up.”
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Doherty hardly looks the part of a dominant linebacker, let alone a star in the shot put, an event which usually draws massive, offensive lineman-sized athletes.
“The javelin I mostly fit in,” he said. “But in the shot put I am definitely the small guy. But I love that. I love being the guy people look at and don’t expect anything, then I walk out there and show them what I can do. I know I’m not the kind of guy people expect to see in the shot, but I know I can compete against the best.
“Track also helped me a lot in football, improving my footwork and my flexibility.”
Longtime Raider throwing coach Joe Welch said the same competitive fire that made him a dominant pass rusher in football allows Doherty to make up for his size.
“He is as competitive a kid as I have ever coached,” said Welch. “Athletically we saw that he had the potential to do something. At the end of his sophomore year he was starting to impress in the javelin, then he finally gave the shot a try and he has done great. When he made it to the finals at All-States last year we could see he could really do something.”
Doherty has opened the spring in fine fashion, winning the javelin and shot put in both of Central’s dual meets, and took third in the shot put at the Haverhill Invitational two weeks ago.
In the fall, he will be continuing his football career at Stonehill. He is considering throwing there as well, to avoid any pesky down time.
“Any day that I’m not competing I don’t feel like myself,” he said. “Staying active and staying competitive has done so much for me as an athlete. I want to keep going.”