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Family Tradition

April 30, 2004

BY SCOTT MacDONALD
SPORTS INFORMATION ASSISTANT

Georgia Tech junior Zeb Sion’s father, Russell Sion, threw the shot put in high school and went on to play college football at Idaho State University. When he had two sons, Zeb and Jed, it was only natural for him to teach his young boys all he knew about tossing a 16-pound ball. Zeb started when he was approximately eight-years old and Jed, currently a senior in high school, was not far behind him. The hard work and years of experience has paid off for Zeb as he earned a scholarship at Georgia Tech and has become one of the top shot putters in school history.

“Zeb really took off last year,” said head coach Grover Hinsdale. “He broke both the indoor and outdoor school records and this year has won an outdoor ACC title, so he is reaching the potential we always felt he was capable of.”

Sion captured his first Atlantic Coast Conference championship on April 17. The junior finished with a season-best toss of 58’01” in the event and qualify for the NCAA Region Championships May 28-29, in Gainesville, Fla. That mark is the fifth best in the South Region and is 39th in the nation.

It had been 14 years since a Yellow Jacket had won the shot put (Mark White 1990) and just the second in program history. But according to Zeb, it was about time.

“It was fun, but a long time coming,” said Sion. “There has been some set backs with the changes in coaching. It’s rough because you have to adjust to different techniques and personalities. Every year we start doing really well towards the end of the year and then we have to start over because we get a new coach. But that has all changed now that we have coach [Allen] Bradd. But it was awesome to finally win it, instead of finishing second or third, like I had in the past.”

First-year assistant and throwing coach Allen Bradd has plenty of experiences to draw on. Bradd is a former ACC champion in the shot put at the University of North Carolina. He came to Tech from Syracuse, where he guided four athletes to NCAA qualifying marks in the discus and shot put events. Coach Bradd feels that Sion has made great strides with his technique and is ready to throw even farther by the end of the outdoor season.

“Zeb has really elevated his throwing to whole new level these past five weeks, especially his understanding and physical ability to perform the rotational shot put technique at the elite level,” said Bradd. “It takes an incredible amount of focus and well-rounded hard quality training to accomplish and he is currently hitting it in full stride. His performance at the ACC Championship meet was awesome and a lot of fun for all of us. With the way his training is going, it’s only a glimpse of what he can accomplish by the end of this season. He is really ready to blast his personal record with a big improvement.”

Sion had been on track to win an ACC title. His freshman season he finished second at the Indoor ACC Championships, earning All-ACC honors. His sophomore season, he broke both the indoor and outdoor school records at the conference championships, finishing fourth and third, respectively. He went on to finishing 22nd at the Outdoor NCAA Championships after qualifying for the national meet at the NCAA Region Championships.

“Freshman season I took second at the ACC Indoor Championship,” said Sion. “The next year the conference got really thick with talented shot putters and I kind of took a step back, finishing third indoors and fourth outdoors. But we had two of the top-10 throwers in the country, so it’s not like I was losing to bad competition.

“But to throw 59’5″ last year and only throw 58’1″ this year, it’s kind of frustrating. But I feel that I’m getting more and more sound at practice and my mental preparation has gotten better this season. Therefore, I feel that I will be better prepared when it comes time for regionals and improve on my NCAA finish.”

Improvement is something that has not come easy for the Pocatello, Idaho, native. Sion had shoulder surgery this summer and had to rehab back for the indoor season. Although he had only been throwing for about two months, he still managed to claim All-ACC honors for the third time in his career with a third-place finish at the indoor ACC meet.

“It was difficult at first,” said Sion. “I was not able to work as hard as I had been accustomed to in the weight room. I have gotten back to where I feel like I’m stronger in the squats and bends, but will never be the same in bench. I have to use a board on my chest to prevent me from putting too much pressure on my left shoulder, but I think people put to much emphasis on bench. I don’t feel it’s as important leg workouts. All in all, I feel like I’m where I need to be right now and hope to reach the sixty-foot barrier this spring.”

Helping Sion recover and pushing him in practice is counterpart Jonathan Spillman. Spillman has a pair of fourth-place finishes in the shot put throughout his career and finished sixth at the outdoor ACC meet this season. Spillman and Sion push one another at practice and in the weight room.

“It’s really important and we push each other all the time,” said Sion. “We offset each other’s weaknesses and it helps us both out tremendously. We have a very sound relationship on and off the track. We came in together and have worked through adversity together, so it’s been a key ingredient to both of our successes here at Tech.”

Sion isn’t the only member of his family tearing up the competition. His younger brother, Jed, is currently 12th in the nation in the discus and is the favorite to win the Idaho High School state title in the shot put. Zeb admits that his brother is much better than he is in the discus.

“Jed is very talented in the discus and is going to Idaho State on a full scholarship,” said Sion. “He isn’t as strong as I am in the shot put, but I feel like he will get there with some hard training. He is a well rounded athlete, starting on the football and basketball teams as a junior and senior.”

With all the recent success that the Sion family has had, it’s no wonder that Zeb feels that becoming the first Tech All-American in the shot put isn’t that far out of reach.

“If I get to sixty-feet, than I feel like I have a shot at finishing in the top eight,” said Sion. “There are about 20 athletes that have thrown that type of distance this year, but doing it under pressure is something entirely different. My training has been leading me up to this point and I feel with the improved mental preparation that I have this year, there’s no reason that I cannot earn All-America honors.”

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