Former Aggie Track And Field Great Headed to Olympics
July 9, 2012
LOGAN, Utah -
By Jason Turner / Logan Herald Journal
It took 16 years longer than he was hoping, but former Utah State track and field great Craig Carter has made it to the Summer Olympics.
But instead of competing in his sport's most prestigious competition, Carter will serve as a personal coach to a pair of athletes -- from different countries, to boot. Carter, who placed seventh in the hammer at the U.S. Olympic Trials 16 years ago, will be coaching female athletes Jillian Camarena-Williams and Julie Labonte at the London 2012 Olympics Games. The games begin July 27 and end Aug. 12.
Under Carter's tutelage, Camarena-Williams, a 2008 Olympian, won the bronze medal in the shot put at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. It was the first time an American woman has ever captured a world championship medal in the event.
Camerena-Williams is currently the U.S. indoor and outdoor record-holder in the shot put. The former Stanford standout has career-best tosses of 66 feet, 2.5 inches (outdoor) and 65-2.25 (indoor) in the event. The 30-year-old was won seven indoor and three outdoor national championships since working with Carter.
Ironically enough, Camerena-Williams is married to a USU graduate in Dustin Williams. The duo was introduced by Carter -- Jillian was going to graduate school at BYU, where Dustin was an athletic trainer -- and they married in 2010. Dustin is Jullian's physiotherapist and, like Carter, is now employed by the University of Arizona.
Likewise, Labonte is her country's top performer in the shot put. Labonte recently took first place in the Canadian Olympic Trials with a mark of 57-5.5. The 21-year-old Canadian record-holder has won multiple NCAA titles in the shot put at Arizona, where Carter has served as the throwers coach for the past six years.
Carter has experienced a wealth of success at Arizona which, under his guidance, has developed into one of the nation's best programs for throwers. Case in point: Carter was named the 2011 U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches' Association (USTFCCCA) National and West Region Women's Assistant Coach of the Year.
Before heading to Arizona, Carter spent two stints as an assistant coach at USU -- the first time as a graduate assistant. Carter spent a total of 11 years as an Aggie assistant. Carter mentored legendary USU competitor James Parker, a 2004 Olympian who was a nine-time All-American. Parker was the U.S. champion the year he went to the Olympics.
"The thing I've always loved about Craig is his ability to get the best out of the athletes that he coaches," said longtime USU head coach Gregg Gensel, who replaced legendary coach Ralph Maughan when Carter was a USU competitor. "He's passionate about the sport, he cares about the athletes and he wants what's best for them."
Carter, who graduated from USU in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in physical education, also taught for nine years at Sky View (1995-2003) and a couple years at Roy in the early 1990s. Additionally, the Clearfield native spent a few years in the early-to-mid 2000s running a sports training facility in Provo.
As a student-athlete at USU from 1986-1990, Carter was a two-time Big West Conference champion in the hammer and discus. The 44-year-old was a two-time All-American -- once in the weight throw (indoor season) and once in the hammer (outdoor season) -- and the 1990 Big West Field Athlete of the Year.
Carter, who unsuccessfully recruited Camerena-Williams to USU, still ranks second in school history in the hammer as his mark of 214-3.6 (65.32 meters) was only surpassed by Parker. Carter's older brother, Mark, was a Big West champion in the shot put in 1986 for the Aggies.
"I've loved our association," Gensel said. "He's been a longtime friend and colleague, and I've loved seeing the progression that he's made in the sport and what he brings to our sport."
Carter married Jo-Anne Bouwhuis, his high school sweetheart, 25 years ago, and the couple have four children -- three of whom live in Logan.
The Herald Journal recently caught up with Carter and talked about his experiences at USU and as an Olympic-caliber coach.
HJ: How much does it mean to you to represent your country at the Olympics?
Carter: It's a big deal for me to be able to go (to London) and take part in the Olympic games with the USA shirt and hat on. ... I love my country and my dad was a full colonel in the military, and so I grew up having a lot of respect for my country. So it's really an honor to wear the red, white and blue and go support the United State and the athletes that will be competing.
HJ: With Jillian winning the bronze medal at the World Championships, how do you feel about her chances at Olympic gold?
Carter: There's a thrower out there, her name is Valerie Adams, and she's from New Zealand, and she's obviously the favorite. She won the gold at the last Olympics, plus the last few World Championships, and she is the No. 1 pick, obviously. And Jill has not thrown the distances that (Adams) has, but in training Jill has shown that she has the capability of upsetting some people, if you want to call it that.
Our goal is to get a medal, and it doesn't matter the color, we just want to medal. Obviously, we're shooting for the gold because that's the ultimate goal. But if we can get a medal, man, we will be really, really excited ... because I think it's only been done one other time by a female American shot putter.
HJ: What's the goal for Julie?
Carter: With Julie being so young, the goal is just to make the final (round). ... They usually set a qualifying distance (for the finals) at around 20 meters, and she's been throwing 18.31 ... so basically Julie is going to have to have a big personal record at the Olympic Games just to make the finals. And that right there, in my opinion and her opinion, is enough. We doesn't expect anything more than that, and we're being realistic here. ... So for Julie, the goal is to represent Canada well, to throw a personal record and hopefully make the final.
HJ: More than anything, what do you most enjoy about coaching?
Carter: Watching kids succeed. It's not about me; it's about me helping these young college kids, and even Jill, post-collegiate kids; if I can help them and they can reach their goals and be successful, then I've done my job. ... It's about the athletes and them being successful.
HJ: How did you end up at USU? Why USU?
Carter: It's kind of funny. Actually, Ralph Maughan recruited my father to go to Utah State. My dad came up here and was all ready to play football and do track for them, and his best friend went to the University of Utah. And so like one or two days before school started, my dad packed up and went to Utah.
So anyway, we've known coach Ralph Maughan for a long time, and then my brother, Mark, he was the best shot putter in the state of Utah at the time, and Ralph Maughan recruited him. ... So, I believe I was in ninth grade at the time, and I used to go to Utah State and train with my brother a little bit on the weekends, so when Mark finished up his senior year at Utah State, the following year I was a freshman.
So he left and I came up there, and Logan, Utah, is always going to be home to me, even though a grew up in Clearfield. My wife and I spent about 18 years there, when you count going to school there and then me coaching. I just fell in love with Cache Valley, the people and the support in that small valley.
HJ: What was the best part of your experiences at USU?
Carter: The support I received from the community and Ralph Maughan -- he being obviously a big name in Cache Valley. And I was fortunate enough to be a good enough athlete -- one of the better athletes on the track team -- and I got a lot of attention. And so I kind of liked that small-town attention that I got. It was a lot of fun, and I fell in love with the school, the valley and the people. It was just a great experience and a great place to be and raise a family.
HJ: What part of the Olympics are you looking forward to the most?
Carter: Just to be a part of the whole atmosphere and everything that's going on. As an athlete, I always wanted to reach that level, but I never did. And so to be there as a coach and be able to take a part in all the things that are going on, that's a big deal. ... And I've had several people tell me how lucky I am, and I do feel lucky because without Jill and Julie, this may have never happened. So to be able to coach athletes of this caliber and to be able to go there as an American and represent our country, it's a big deal to me, and it's a big deal to my family that I get to go. ... It's an honor and a privilege that I really look forward to.