DUNFRIES Potomac senior Ivan Parker is a work in progress both athletically and academically.
The Panthers standout shot putter is not where he wants to be yet but his hard work in the classroom and on the track just might lead to a Division-I scholarship.
Parker tasted tremendous success early in his brief shot put career. In his first season competing in the event, Parker heaved a 50-foot, four-inch throw to finish fifth in the 2001 indoor state meet. That success was short-lived, though.
He slipped down to a 1.75 grade point average the next grading period and was ineligible for the outdoor season. And it wasn’t until a verbal kick in the pants by track coach Bill Stearns two months ago that Parker realized he had to work harder in class to garner a track scholarship.
“I was really giving him a hard time because he’d come to me about nationals, and I was like why should I bother filling out a national form if you’re not going to be eligible,” Stearns said. “I kind of said, they’ll be headlines that say Ivan Parker Ineligible. Then on your way to McDonald’s, you can read that every day.”
His grade point average is now at 2.2 and he recently scored a 1080 on the SAT, which makes him eligible to play at a Division I school his freshman year. The smarts were always there, he just needed to apply himself.
“It just took a lot of buckling down,” Parker said. “I had a problem with lethargy. I had to train during the summer to make sure I am ready for the season along with getting my grades up during summer school.”
Now the future looks bright for Parker, the son of a Air Force serviceman and a grandson of an amateur boxer. Parker recently hurled a 56-11, a mark that Stearns said borders on major Division-I interest.
“Throwing 57 is a lot of different than 51,” Stearns said. “A number of people that throw 51 compared to people that throw 57. If he hits the 60 [feet] range out, that will put him in a big-time category.”
Potomac throws coach Levi Frye thinks Parker can eventually hit the mid 60s, maybe as early as the outdoor track season.
“He hasn’t had a complete throw yet,” Frye said. “Every time we think he’s going to have one, he leaves one or two things out….He’s doing this on raw talent and raw strength.”
Frye and fellow shot coach Kim Bryson played large parts in Parker’s success, says Stearns. Frye was a standout football player and track star at King George High School and Bryson was an All-Met shot putter in Maryland before competing for Syracuse University.
“We have two outstanding coaches working with him so I just sort of stay out of the way,” Stearns said. “Hylton and Forest Park kids come over to Potomac and throw together sometimes. 15 or 20 of them will throw together because they [Bryson and Frye] are just that good.”
And Parker appreciates all that Frye and Bryson have done for him.
“They mainly push me and they saw that I have talent,” Parker said. “They taught me everything I know, pretty much.”
The three coaches also got on Parker’s case last season when they learned of his academic situation. However, it initially fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t until recently that Stearns noticed a real difference in his shot putter’s attitude toward school.
“I really gave him a hard time and he really started clicking in and working hard,” Stearns said. “He was sitting in here with me till 5:30 one day doing work. I think three or four months ago, he was just thinking he was going to graduate and get a job and that his opportunities weren’t there because he wasn’t getting a lot [of looks] in football. And then all of a sudden now, I think he’s seen that light and he’s kind of pulled everything together.”
This week Stearns plans to sit down with Parker and talk about colleges. That list could get lengthy if he tops what he’s already done.
“Especially with his lack of a throwing background and …he is in just his second season for throwing the shot, I’m not even sure he’s hit his level yet,” Stearns said. “He may jump to 60 and then hit his level.”
“Right now, [my goal] is to just to do the best I can this season and wherever the chips fall, they fall,” Parker added.
Just getting into college is the important part for Parker, not where he’s going. Parker, who’s lived in Suffolk, Alexandria, Bitburg, Germany and now Dumfries, would be the first in his family to attend college.
“Athleticism has been in my blood,” Parker said. “We’ve had a lot of athletes [in my family], but they didn’t accomplish anything.”
That family fact could change quite soon. With his grades now floating in the same area code as his throws, Parker has the potential to accomplish whatever he puts his mind and arm towards.
“He has lower body strength which is good and he has the determination to be out there,” Frye said. “He loves to throw. Other people usually get tired around 20 throws. He gets better as he keeps throwing so we encourage him to throw as much he can.”