After a stellar college career at Southern Illinois University, Jeneva Stevens is trying to make her mark as a professional in the shot put and hammer throw. On Thursday, she will compete in the shot put at the USA Championships. On Saturday, she will compete in the hammer. Her personal bests are 18.67m and 74.77m. In 2013 she finished ninth in the hammer at the World Championships. In March of 2014, she finished eighth in the shot put at the Indoor World Championships. Shortly thereafter, she sustained an injury to her left foot. I spoke to Jeneva on June 7th, just after she competed in the shot and hammer at the Chicagoland Throws Series in Naperville, Illinois.
Jeneva threw the shot in the morning, then took a nap prior to the hammer competition. Her nap did not end until the hammer warm-ups had begun, hence my first question.
Dan McQuaid: How can somebody roll out of bed and throw 68 meters? (This was a sector foul that was measured after the competition.)
Jeneva Stevens: I’m in good enough shape to do so. The tragedy is that I couldn’t handle anything I created today. Every day in practice you throw as hard as you can then the meet comes and you don’t know what you have. Today I had a lot of power and the ball when up high I didn’t know what to do so I slowed down my third turn in order to get a throw off.
Dan McQuaid: You got hit in the left foot with a javelin in March of 2014?
Jeneva Stevens: Yes, it created a puncture wound, which I got stitched up. Ten days later the stitches came out. I never got an MRI or an x-ray, so I continued to throw in pain for about four months. Then it was so bad I had to get an MRI and they found that I had two stress fractures and if it had broken completely I would have been out of the sport. I had to take eight weeks off to let it heal. It was between July and August of last year. That wasn’t the worst damage. The worst damage was me continuing to throw on it. I developed terrible motor patterns that I have to break, and some things to this day I cannot do yet and I have to continue to do rehab. If you look at the film of me throwing the hammer today and two years ago, there is a big difference. Two years ago, I used to throw with a higher orbit and I can’t do it now because I can’t get on my toes enough. The last practice before I came out here I started getting my orbits up and I was in a lot of pain.
Dan McQuaid: When they finally diagnosed the stress fractures, how did they treat that?
Jeneva Stevens: Just threw a boot on it. After that they said after eight weeks you should be okay.
Dan McQuaid: But it is still bugging you?
Jeneva Stevens: Yes.
Dan McQuaid: How does it feel now after throwing both shot and disc today?
Jeneva Stevens: It feels a little shaky but it’s fine. What happens now is I have a bone that rolls on top of a nerve so I do self adjustment and pop the bone off the nerve so I can continue to throw. But I have a very high pain tolerance.
Dan McQuaid: What are you able to do in the weight room?
Jeneva Stevens: I’m able to do everything. At first I couldn’t do anything that involved being on my toes. Snatching, cleans. Push jerks. That is getting much better.
Dan McQuaid: What are you numbers in the weight room like now compared to before the injury?
Jeneva Stevens: The same. I haven’t done a one-rep max in a while. I can do 110 kilos on a hang clean. I believe I can back squat 500 pounds.
Dan McQuaid: Has the foot injury changed your shot technique?
Jeneva Stevens: The foot injury caused me to start reversing in the shot because it takes stress off my left foot. Two years ago, I did not reverse. I threw 62 feet in 2012 with a non-reverse but I can’t stay on the ground long enough to do it, so I have to reverse.
Dan McQuaid: So you reverse on all your practice throws?
Jeneva Stevens: I have to.
Dan McQuaid: You did one glide during warm-ups for the shot. Why?
Jeneva Stevens: It sets up my front. Without the glide I don’t know where I am. At least I know with the spin, if I get into the glider’s position I know how to release. Other than that I fall apart. I always do between one and three glides in warm-ups. I have to to set my finish. In practice I alternate one glide and one spin the whole time.
Dan McQuaid: You are living in Carbondale, Illinois, and training with your college coach John Smith. Do you get any support from the USATF?
Jeneva Stevens: I do. I was awarded a grant not too long ago. I apply for grants, or sometimes they just say to me, “Hey Jeneva, fill out this form and you will get a grant” so they do look out for me. I also get a stipend from the New York Athletic Club. Two years ago, I was living off of college scholarships. I could actually life off of $750 per month and still have some left over. Now expenses have risen because I am married.
Dan McQuaid: How long have you been married?
Jeneva Stevens: We got married last October 1st. I’m not saying I had nothing to do, but I was injured so I was like “Hey, we have time, let’s do this!”
Dan McQuaid: Does it help going into a meet knowing that you have the support of your husband?
Jeneva Stevens: Yes. I’ve always been a procrastinator, but now it is worse. I wait until the last minute to leave for a meet…
Dan McQuaid: Because you don’t want to leave him behind?
Jeneva Stevens: Yes. The only stress I would say is the expense change because I was used to living on $750 a month and now it’s $1200 a month so you have to budget money when you go out to compete.
Dan McQuaid: Your next meet is the national meet, right? You will compete in both shot and hammer?
Jeneva Stevens: Yes.
Dan McQuaid: You have the A standard in both?
Jeneva Stevens: Yes. My season’s bests this year are 18.67m and 72.69m so I’m up there in both.
Dan McQuaid: What do you think it will take to get in the top three in each event?
Jeneva Stevens: All I know is always aim for 19 meters. It will never let you down. And 72 meters will never let you down either.