*During the current hiatus of collegiate sport action, UChicago Athletics is running a story series called “Maroon Moments”, which will highlight some of the top performances and most pivotal contests from the last two years across all Maroon athletic teams.
CHICAGO – It took only two throws for Alexander Scott to demonstrate the trajectory of his 2020 season. The University of Chicago senior was making his indoor track and field season debut on January 11 in the friendly confines of the Henry Crown Field House, and he made a big statement on his second heave of the shot put. The measurement confirmed a historical mark – 17.53 meters. That number shattered his previous school record by nearly a whole meter.
The opening splash portended a momentous campaign for Scott, which he capped off with a triumphant finish at the University Athletic Association (UAA) Indoor Championships in March.
The seeds for Scott’s shot put dominance trace back to 2017. The Wisconsin native was the conference champion in the indoor shot put and was named UAA Indoor Rookie of the Year. Over his four-year collegiate career, Scott claimed six UAA titles and 13 All-UAA accolades in throwing events.
Fast forward to the summer of 2019. Head Track & Field Coach Chris Hall noticed his senior thrower was putting in extra work outside of campus as Scott endeavored to put an exclamation point on his final season.
“On more than one occasion in the summer, I was driving home and saw Alex in Washington Park by himself practicing the shot put,” Hall said. “That park doesn’t have a throws circle – it was just a place he could work on his craft. Seeing him do that, I knew he was really focused on his senior season. I also know the disappointment of getting injured during the indoor NCAAs was really motivating to him.”
The 2019 indoor campaign featured great results from Scott. He set a new school record in the indoor shot put (16.57 meters), was named the UAA Indoor Most Outstanding Field Performer, and qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships. Unfortunately, an injury sustained in the NCAA prelims ended his quest for All-American status.
That additional motivation helped fuel the historic start to Scott’s 2020 results. Most track and field athletes improve their marks gradually as the season goes on – they usually don’t break school records in the first meet of the season. But that is precisely what the senior thrower delivered in his January debut.
The 17.53-meter heave immediately became the best mark in all of NCAA Division III. He was named the National Athlete of the Week a few days later by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). He was also interviewed and featured in ABC Chicago’s TV sports broadcast. Even with the additional attention, Hall had no worries about how Scott would respond the rest of the way.
“I don’t think that added pressure to him,” said the veteran coach. “Alex was focused on his season and on improving. In some ways, I feel it allowed him to relax and just focus on the day-to-day training. He no longer had the pressure of trying to get into the NCAAs because he was at the top of the country in the event.”
As the indoor season progressed, Scott just kept winning. He finished first in the shot put four times in the next six meets leading into the UAA Indoor Championships. His qualification for the NCAA national meet was assured. Now it was about peaking at the right time.
The two-day UAA conference meet took place in New York City on February 29 and March 1. NCAAs were scheduled for two weeks later. Scott started strong on day one by winning the weight throw (15.92 meters).
But he saved his biggest accomplishment for day two. On his sixth and final shot-put throw, the senior put up an electrifying distance of 17.68 meters. It was the second-best mark in the country and crushed the previous conference record of 16.47 meters. He won the event by nearly nine feet over the runner-up. For the second-straight season, Scott was selected as the UAA Indoor Most Outstanding Performer (Field Events).
“I feel we all knew Alex could put up a great throw at any time, but it was certainly motivating to the team to see him do it in a championship setting,” Hall said. “More important than setting a new school record, Alex broke the all-time UAA record.”
In a sport where mechanics and technique make all the difference, Scott’s skill and throwing exploits rank him among the best male field athletes ever at UChicago. “From my standpoint, I would begin by talking about what a great athlete Alex is in general,” said Hall. “He has a great deal of speed and explosiveness in the circle, and so the technical aspects are where he really excels. As a thrower, Alex is the most accomplished in our school’s history.”
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Indoor Championships, and all subsequent spring championships as well. Scott did receive All-American honors from the USTFCCCA later in the spring.
“In terms of where his season ranks, that’s a difficult question,” Hall said. “Had he been given the opportunity to compete at the NCAAs and fight for a national title, it would have been one of the best overall seasons an athlete has had at UChicago. Unfortunately he wasn’t given that opportunity so it’s hard to compare. I would certainly put him in a similar category to some of the other elite athletes in our program’s history (Tom Haxton and Adeoye Mabogunje both won NCAA titles), and Alex had a real opportunity to be right there.”