Hammer Twins

All-American McGehearty brothers rank one and two in the nation in weight event

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Sean and Mark McGehearty are double trouble for Boston College track-and-field opponents - and some day, they may take on the rest of the world, too.

The identical twin seniors from Providence currently rank first and second in the country in the indoor 35-pound weight throw, and were the top two American finishers in the hammer competition at the National Collegiate Athletic Association outdoor championships last spring. They also share the BC record for the 35-pound weight throw, which they set at the Harvard Invitational meet on Feb. 1. Their identical throws of 70 feet, seven inches were best in the nation this season.

Mark and Sean's string of one-two finishes reflect a healthy rivalry they obviously enjoy, and it has helped them garner All American honors.

"It's a positive kind of competition, where we feed off each other. We've always been competitive with each other," said Sean, a sociology major minoring in education.

"When you go to a meet and the other team isn't strong," said Mark, a history major also minoring in education, "you're always guaranteed to have a great thrower on your own team to go against."

Seniors Sean (left) and Mark McGehearty. (Photo by Gary Gilbert)

The McGeheartys may be going against the world's best in another few years. They placed among the 12 finalists in the hammer event at last year's US Olympic trials, although at age 20 they were the youngest competitors. John Walker, an assistant track coach at BC, predicts the McGeheartys will hit their competitive prime in their late 20s and could be serious contenders for the US Olympic hammer squad in 2004 or 2008.

"The good thing is, they push each other," said Track and Cross Country Director Randy Thomas. "When one does well in an event, it just seems to spur the other to do better in the next one, and that is how it has often worked out. They are also great friends. They train together and do all they can to encourage each other. There is a natural rivalry, but there also is great respect and appreciation for each other's efforts."

Thomas, pointing out that the brothers are on the Dean's List, calls the McGeheartys "ideal student-athletes."

Sean is the taller of the two, at 6 feet 4 inches tall and 265 pounds. Mark, the older by two minutes, is 6 feet 3 inches and 265 pounds. Sean is left-handed and Mark is right-handed, so they spin in opposite directions when throwing a weight.

Mark and Sean were spotted as track-and-field prospects during their freshman year of high school by Al Morro, a BC alumnus who had played on the Eagles' 1942 Orange Bowl football team. A discus thrower in college, Morro helped the twins develop their prowess in weight throwing, and although they were recruited by several schools the McGeheartys selected Morro's alma mater.

The two often see-saw in competition, exchanging leads back and forth. Mark rallied to beat Sean on the last throw of the hammer at both the 1992 and 1993 USA Junior National Championships. Sean nosed out Mark for first in the event at the Big East Conference indoor track championships in Syracuse two weeks ago, nearly breaking their BC record.

On a recent afternoon when temperatures had crept into the low 40s, the McGeheartys were among a half-dozen or so weight-throwers practicing on Shea Field. The 35-pound weights they took turns heaving resemble cannonballs with carrying handles or medieval battle maces, landing with muddy splashes in a corner of the field. The weight throwers practice outdoors all year and Sean estimated he and Mark had thrown "20 a day for eight years. That's a lot."

The sport of weight throwing requires a balance of technique and explosive strength, said Sean, and hitting a throw right is an incomparable sensation.

"It's a great feeling," said Sean. "You know. As you watch it soar, you go nuts, yelling and screaming. You can close your eyes and know it's a good throw. It's instinctive."

Walker, himself a former collegiate All American in the hammer and an alternate on the US Olympic squad last summer, says the twins measure up to the considerable demands of weight throwing.

"You've got to be smart," he said. "You've got to be dedicated. You've got to be a little crazy. And you've got to be a perfectionist. The McGeheartys hit on all of them."

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