Now he wants to help Mike Torie do the same.
Rome and Torie both grew up in Marysville, and for a time last summer they had the top two marks for American discus throwers in 2013. Rome, a 1995 graduate of Marysville Pilchuck High School, had a toss of 208 feet 7 inches at a meet in May, and a month later Torie, a 2004 grad from nearby Lakewood High School, moved right behind him with a mark of 207-1.
They ended the season as the Nos. 2 and 5 discus throwers in the United States. And to hear Torie tell it, much of his own success is due to Rome.
“This wouldn’t be happening if he wasn’t my coach,” said the 28-year-old Torie. “I’m so indebted to him for all the help he’s given me.”
It began a few years ago when Torie reached out to Rome, seeking guidance for his throwing career. Rome willingly obliged, and in the ensuing years the two developed an athletic partnership and a personal friendship. Though they live apart — Rome is an assistant track and field coach at Concordia University in Portland, Ore., while Torie is a coach and substitute teacher in Simi Valley, Calif. — they keep in frequent contact via phone calls, e-mail and the internet.
The 37-year-old Rome is a two-time U.S. Olympian, including a trip to the 2012 Games in London. And he has no doubt that Torie will follow him to the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“There’s no question in my mind that he’s going to make the U.S. team in 2016,” said Rome last week, one day before the two men participated in a coaching clinic at Marysville Pilchuck High School. “Barring injury, there’s no one in the country right now that’s going to beat him at the Olympic Trials in 2016.
“I know all the best throwers in the country. I’ve trained with them and they’re my friends ... and out of all the people that are coming up and training for (the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro) I think Mike’s the best. He’s made the sacrifices and the commitments to do it, and he has just as much talent as anybody else. So why shouldn’t it be him?”
A decade ago, when Rome was training for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Torie was preparing to graduate from Lakewood, where he participated in football, wrestling, and track and field. He went on to compete in track and field at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., where he twice reached the NAIA national championships, including a third-place finish in his senior season.
It was a just before Christmas in 2010 that Torie first contacted Rome, who by then was in training for the 2012 Olympics in London. The friendship began, and for a time the two men were both living in southern California, which allowed them occasionally to work out together.
Torie improved his personal best six times in 2013, and a total of some 12 feet beyond his 2012 best. He is still about 7 feet short of the current A standard, which is the qualifying distance for every Olympic thrower, but he expects to achieve that mark sometime this season.
Compared to what he was in college, “I’m bigger, stronger and faster, and I understand (throwing the discus) more,” Torie said. “I’m constantly studying. Every night I’m spending an hour or two looking at my film, watching (Rome’s) films and watching film of other throwers. I’m constantly trying to learn new stuff.”
As for Rome, he has likely finished his competitive career. Now 37, he would be almost 40 by the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, “and the only way I could do it is if I quit coaching (at Concordia),” he said. “So I’d say it’s like 80-20 that I’m done, and that 20 percent in your brain is just because you miss it.
“Yes, there’s a crack in the door,” he admitted with a smile. “But I really want Mike to make it. That’s what’s important to me.”
Torie has much more work ahead to get on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team, and even more work to reach the medals podium in Rio de Janeiro. But if it happens, he said, “it’ll be a medal I’ll share with (Rome) because he’s the one who got me there.
“If I could make the team for Rio, I’d feel like in a sense that he’d made it with me because he’s the one who mentored me and pushed me. And if I take home a medal, it’ll be a medal I share with him.”
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