When Kevin Carr was in graduate school in 1995 the internet was just starting. Google didn’t exist; hotmail was a brand new company. Carr was studying how to use the internet to deliver online learning; he created one of the first online astronomy boards. To do that he had to learn code using PERL and write web pages using HTML. At the University of Idaho the Physics Department had it’s own servers which gave Carr direct access to a system to create and deliver web pages, and eventually create The Ring. The first page Carr created showed a series of pictures of Mac Wilkins gold medal throw from Montreal; eventually dozens were visiting daily.
Gradually Carr figured out the programming that would allow for others to post their own messages on the page ‘It was really exciting to make a webpage do something interactive and respond to people. The same people who looked at the Wilkins pictures started posting comments.’ At first the posting was anonymous, which contributed to the interesting and provocative posts of The Ring, eventually people started using The Ring to post drug use allegations (and did so anonymously). ‘I even got called by people threatening to “sue The Ring,” which was kind of a joke because The Ring isn’t a company with money.’
At this point Carr shut The Ring down, leaving a black void on not only the web page but the throwing community, fortunately, however, he received enough emails to reestablish The Ring; this time with a login system which would allow others to remain anonymous but also gave Carr the power to ban users if need be:
‘A number of people, most famously “He-Man,” were banned, let back on, and sometimes banned again. I even had to ban entire sub-domains a couple of times because people had entered under assumed identities. It was pretty crazy for a while. I think the peak usage was during the Athens Games in 2004, when we had over 100 posts/ day every day.’
When Carr was a 9th grader one of his classmates encouraged him to pursue throwing because he ‘looked like a thrower’, Carr would grow to be 6 foot 6; his senior year of high school Carr improved his discus throw from 120’ to 151’, winning the ‘small school’ state championship in Colorado. Carr was then invited to walk on at Colorado State and improved to 174’9’’ as a freshmen and hence transferred to the University of Oregeon where ‘being a Man of Oregeon was pretty kool’.
Carr became one of hammer guru Stewart Togher’s few non-hammer throwing disciples. Carr credits Togher with stressing good fundamentals. “He taught me to throw using my gifts, which are long levers [6’6″] and explosive pull strength,” says Carr. “I was doing 70′-plus in the overhead shot.* In 1986 Carr threw the discus 198’11’’ and made All-American, competed between Al Oerter and John Powell in the 1986 TAC (predecessor to USATF) Finals in Eugene. In 1988 Carr threw 201’4’’ and qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials.
“The Trials themselves were a miserable experience for me”; reflects Carr. “I consider it a miracle I was able to take part. It is neat to look back at the tape and see myself competing with Mac Wilkins, John Powell, Ben Plucknett, Ken Stadel, Art Swartz, a young Tony Washington, Mike Buncic, and Randy Heisler. But there is really no way to throw at the world-class level and be a high school teacher. I know Tony Washington believes that it’s possible, but he has never taught high school.”*
In 1990 he went with Athletes in Action to Scandinavia for a low-key series of meets. “I was throwing about 175′ without really training much,” he recalls. “It was fun. I got to throw against Luis Delis and traded him my Nike CrossTrainers for his Cuban team jacket. I won small meets and earned the title ‘International Champion.’ At least its fun to think that, and it makes for a good story.”*
In 1991 Carr married his wife Lisa and stepped away from throwing, took on marathoning and won Portland’s Marathon’s ‘Clydesdale Division’. In 1994 Carr left teaching high school and pursued his PhD in Physics and Science Education at the University of Idaho, where he would create The Ring. “In 1995 I was back throwing, setting a ‘new’ PR of 177’11″ throwing against Dan O’Brien in a made-for-TV event that was part of the Prefontaine Classic. They did a mini-decathlon and recruited a couple of us from the ‘day meet’ to fill out the discus. It was great fun.”*
After graduation Carr became a professor at George Fox University in Newberg, OR, Carr now teaches at Pacific University, OR where he has started a new branch campus here in Woodburn ‘sort of a new “The Ring” for me—I hope it does well. I have a wife of 23 years and four kids; none of the kids was born when The Ring started.’ When The Ring started Carr could not have told you that it was have the run that it did;
‘I think it helped lead the throwing community into a better sense of connection than before. When I was in HS I didn’t know or have contact with one other thrower or coach (my track coach was strictly a runner). All I had to go by was a line drawing of Ludvik Danek in the Track and Field Omnibook. Obviously that has changed, and perhaps The Ring played a part in that happening, although it would have happened anyway.’
‘I think THE RING has helped some people. Not so much because of the raw information it contains, but because of the connections people make. I think that just having a sense of community with people who have achieved what you dream of achieving makes your dreams far closer to reality.’*
Originally, in 1996, The Ring functioned as a message board, live chat room, text messaging system, blog site and even a precursor to Facebook for throwers;
‘There were long, rambling posts, posts that said “meet us at the gym,” people having basically live conversations. And it wasn’t just all throwing and training, there was gossip and trash talk as well. Eventually, other, better services took over all of those functions and The Ring began to decline. My wife wishes I had invented Facebook or something; in hindsight The Ring had all the rudimentary tools to create something like that.‘
Over the years there were countless conversations that many of us around the nation hold close as favorites (feel free to recollect or post them at the end of this article), some of Carr’s include interactions between Art Venegas and his supporters and detractors, Larry Judge, the comedic and insightful posts of Jason Tunks and the paradoxes we find in throwing such as ‘strength/technique’. One particular sequence of events inspired by The Ring include this gem:
‘I got an email from a young European asking me where he should go to college in the U.S. I said, “University of Idaho,” and he replied, “Cool, I like potatoes.” He came to UI and trained under Tim Taylor, a guy my age who was coaching 50′ shot putters. The young thrower was Joachim Olsen, who Tim coached at the Olympic Games in Sydney. This led to a nice string of throwers at UI. I always say The Ring should get partial credit for that.’
Another story also involves Joachim Olsen (JB):
‘ During the Sydney Games, a post by JB appeared, stating that Arsi Harju of Finland was to be stripped of his Gold Medal due to a positive doping test and that a new medal ceremony would be conducted the next day moving Nelson and Godina up into the first two places and Bloom in third. This occurred in the middle of the night and in the morning I had calls from the Finnish press asking me what was going on, which of course I did not know. I took the post off. I was told later that the Germans had shared this false story with young Olsen, who promptly posted it without checking it out. Sadly, he was sent home by Denmark even though the post was gone. Its only funny because he went on to have a nice career and is now a successful politician on Denmark. ‘
The footprint of The Ring on the throwing community is larger than we can fathom, it provided the first international platform for the sharing and building of knowledge regarding throwing and it’s related ecosystems. It has led to fellow developments such as MACTHROWVIDEO and THROWHOLICS. Countless young throwers have used these resources to improve their technique, expand their mind, decide where they should attend university and other great factors that shape who we become as human beings.
The contents of The Ring have now been assimilated with THROWHOLICS and can be searched in entirety on our webpage <social.throwholics.com> and we encourage you to explore and draw back on past posts and create new ones as well. Most of all we’d like you to share your stories of how The Ring has affected you as a thrower, in your career and life and share some of your favorite posts you remember transpiring on The Ring. Personally, I would like to thank Carr for letting me reset my password about a dozen times per year from 2004-2013, I just could never remember the damn thing. But also thanks for giving the throwing community a place to be a community, to grow and develop and be who we want to be; that’s what good teachers, parents, spouses and people do and if this is the effect you’ve had on a group simply through the means of the internet it must be something special for the people you interact with on a daily basis.
Carr’s last words: “Thanks for making it Fun!”
*Portions of this article were generated using quotes found in January 2001’s ‘Long and Strong Throwers Journal’ which can be found here: http://www.longandstrong.com/lstj/Jan01.htm
Please share and post your favorite conversations/experiences from The Ring.