This coming Thursday and Friday, University of Wyoming alumnus Mason Finley will compete in the discus throw at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. Finley will enter Thursday’s qualifying round with the fifth best throw in the nation this year at 215’ 4” or 65.63 meters. He will be vying to be one of the three individuals in the men’s discus competition to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team that will compete in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 5-21.
Finley captured sixth in the 2015 U.S.A. Track and Field Championships held in Eugene, Ore., which is also the site of this year’s U.S.A. Track and Field Olympic Trials. He captured sixth place with a throw of 200 ‘ 6” or 61.11 meters.
The men’s discus competition at this year’s Trials will be contested over two days. The Qualifying Round will begin at 7 p.m., Mountain Time on Thursday, July 7 and the finals will be held at 4:30 p.m., M.T. on Friday, July 8. The discus finals are scheduled to be televised on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) as part of the network’s coverage from 4-6 p.m. on Friday.
The native of Buena Vista, Colo., won the 2014 Mountain West Conference individual title in the discus back on May 16, 2014, when he recorded a throw of 202’ 11” for the second-best mark in MW Championship history. Finley was named the Outstanding Male Athlete at the 2014 Mountain West Outdoor Track and Field Championships. He went on to place sixth in the discus at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon to claim the 11th All-America honor of his college career. He began his college career at the University of Kansas.
Finley began throwing in the sixth grade when his father, Jared, began teaching him. Mason’s father was an All-America discus thrower at Wyoming in 1979. His younger sisters, Matia and Rebecca, are also throwers at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Colorado State, respectively. Matia was a sophomore this past season at UMKC and Rebecca was a freshman at CSU.
We recently spoke with Finley about his life the past two years since graduating from Wyoming in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in theatre. He currently resides in Lawrence, Kan., where his mother, Lisa Finley, also lives.
2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, Men’s Discus Competition Schedule
Thursday, July 7, 2016 7 p.m., M.T. Men’s Discus Qualifying Round
Friday, July 8, 2016 4:30 p.m., M.T. Men’s Discus Finals (Televised on NBCSN during 4-6 p.m., M.T. telecast)
A Conversation with Mason Finley
GoWyo.com: What have you been doing the past two years after completing your college career at Wyoming?
Mason Finley: “As soon as I graduated, I went to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., south of San Diego. I was there for about six months nursing a couple injuries I suffered in the weight room. That set me back a little bit as far as training, but I learned a lot there. They had a great medical staff, and they taught me how to rehab and showed me how to prevent injuries.
“After that, I came back to Lawrence, Kan., to train with my old coach at KU and to be close to my family down here. One of my sisters, Matia, goes to the University of Missouri Kansas City, and I get to train with her a lot which has been great. My other sister, Rebecca, currently goes to Colorado State.
“Once I got back to KU, I didn’t think I was going to compete last year, but I slowly got back healthy and my throws were going well -- definitely good enough to compete. I ended up getting a P.R. (personal record) last year of about 212 feet. I placed sixth in the U.S.A. Track and Field Championships and then I called it a season.
“This year, I really focused in the fall on losing more weight. I’m down to 355 coming from 437 back in 2013 and that has helped tremendously with my back and my knees, so all those little injuries are kind of non-existent any more. I’ve been able to get a lot quicker in my movements throughout the spin, kept my strength levels about the same and my distance definitely moved out. I’ve been over the Olympic standard this year twice, winning a pretty big competition up in Idaho. Everybody but two big name competitors were there, so it sets me up really well going into the Olympic Trials.”
GoWyo: In terms of your training, have you been able to train full time or do you also work?
Finley: “I am able to train pretty much full time, but I also work part-time. When I was at Chula Vista, I didn’t have a job for about six months while I was working out at the Olympic Training Center. Now that I’m back in Kansas, I have two practices a day and I’m working at GNC -- General Nutrition Center.”
GoWyo: How important is it to have the extra time to focus on your training?
Finley: “I think it’s definitely necessary when you’re trying to get to this level of competition. I need a certain time, at least about an hour and a half a day to lift, and I need an hour and a half to do my technical work. Then depending on when I’m in season, either I’m doing about 45 minutes of cardio or rehab, as well, like in the swimming pool or in the training room. I end up spending about four to five hours a day training.
“Not only it is the time committed but you’re kind of exhausted, so you don’t really have time for a full-time job and do this. I don’t really see that being possible. Maybe somebody along the line has found a way to do it, but I think that if you’re trying to get to this level you need to commit a lot of time to your training.”
GoWyo: Wyoming Associate Head Coach and Throws Coach Paul Barrett said one of your best qualities this past year has been your consistency. Do you have a sense of confidence heading into the Olympic Trials due to that consistency?
Finley: “I definitely do. I’ve watched my competitors, and I have a sense of what most of them can do. For me, I haven’t had a legitimate meet where I was under 210 feet. I think that’s been my bottom. And I’ve had four meets where I’ve thrown over 64 meters twice and 65 twice. I see some of the guys throw 65 on the coast of California, where they have a big wind. Then they’ll have a meet somewhere in like Arizona and they’ll be around 62 meters, so there’s some fluctuation there. Some of these guys depend on the wind for a big throw. In my four meets, I’ve had zero wind each time. I’m definitely confident. I think 65 meters is going to win this meet, and I think 63 and a half meters is what it’s going to take to be in the top three and to go to the Olympics.”
GoWyo: Throwers focus on one specific skill for so many years. Describe for us what your training schedule consists of and how you’ve gone about training for this year’s Olympic Trials?
Finley: “Throwing is mostly technique. How the hierarchy of training goes is technique, first; then specific throwing strength, which is not like bench press or squat but a lot of throwing heavier implements for the specific movements you are training for; and then you have your weight room. But technique is by far paramount.
“You can be a big, strong dude, but if you don’t do things efficiently in terms of your technique the strength will do nothing for you. In the fall, we work on technique probably an hour and a half to two hours a day. Then at this time of year, getting closer to the Trials, there is not a lot you can change and be effective. We’re really just dotting the i’s and and crossing the t’s now that we’re getting close to the Trials, and we’re down to about 45 minutes to an hour working on technique per day.”
GoWyo: In terms of what you’ll do between now and the Trials, what other things change in regard to your training?
Finley: “You definitely kind of taper off the weights a little bit, so you’re not worn out. We’re trying to maintain strength, and technically, we’re fine tuning at this point.
“How the trials work is there’s going to be three throws on the first day (July 7) to get into the finals the next day (July 8), which is a little unique. Most meets don’t do that, Most meets have the prelims and finals on the same day, and so what we did before I went to the big meet in Idaho is we warmed up and took three throws the day before the competition just to kind of simulate what that feels like. We’ll be doing that more frequently leading up to the Trials. You only get three (throws) in the qualifying round of he Olympic Trials to get in the Top 12 and move on to the next day’s finals.”
GoWyo: You’ve been pointing to this competition for a long time and while I’m sure you are concentrating on staying focused on your training, it has to be exciting now that you are getting close to the Olympic Trials.
Finley: “It is definitely exciting, but I’ve learned a lot about focusing and preparation for competitions the last couple of years. Something I’ve changed this year is the week I have a meet, I really cater to my training not just for the day of the competition but the day before. The whole day before I work on stretching out. I have a ritual of what I do. I’ll run, and I’ll do my hurdle stretches -- very specific things to get me focused and loose. That changed from when I was in college, when I would show up and start stretching about an hour before I competed.
“At this time, it all ties back to the point that it is way more important to be consistent, and the preparation to achieve that consistency begins early in the week.”
GoWyo: Is this the Olympics you’ve been pointing to or are the next Olympics in 2020 also something you are focused on reaching?
Finley: “Things have gone extremely well for me this year, so I’m very confident that I will make it to the Olympics. If I can stay focused mentally and do what we’ve been doing, I should make it. I also really think I’m going to show up well at the next Olympics in 2020.
“This one (2016) is a great opportunity to try to go in and make the finals of the Olympics. That experience would definitely help put me in a great position. Without any injuries, God-willing, I will be in a place to make the next Olympics, as well, in 2020.”
GoWyo: When did you first start throwing the discus?
Finley: “I started throwing in sixth grade. I don’t know what year that was. My dad (Jared Finley), he threw. He actually threw at the University of Wyoming. My dad’s just crazy about it. He loves the sport, he’s still throwing as a matter of fact right now. He’s throwing in the master’s division.
“He showed me and my sisters all at a young age in the summers when we didn’t have school or any other sports going on. We’d go out and throw with him. It was just kind of a father-son, father-daughter hobby.”
GoWyo: What do you remember about your time at Wyoming?
Finley: “I had a great time at Wyoming. All my teammates, my roommates slash teammates, we had awesome times together -- Paul Thomas, who was a discus thrower, and Mark Sparks, who was another thrower, we were all roommates together. That was fun.
“A lot of my time was also spent in the theatre program at UW. All my theatre-major friends and professors -- it was a great experience, learning what it means to be an actor.
Coach (Paul) Barrett’s training, we had a great time getting strong in the weight room. Throwing the 35-pound weight, it was something I had never thrown until I got to Wyoming and Coach Barrett taught me how to do it. It was just a great time -- a lot of great memories from both the academic and athletic sides of my experience there.”
GoWyo: Have you had any time since graduation to pursue your interest in acting?
Finley: “Not really. I auditioned for a couple things here in Lawrence, but they need a time commitment -- and rightfully so -- but I just can’t give that kind of time commitment right now. I would rather not do a poor job and just wait until I’m done competing or at least until I have some free time next fall or winter when I may not be training as hard. I do know a local film crew in Rock Haven that does some of their own independent movies. Hopefully, this fall I may get to work with them a little bit and start building up my resume.”
GoWyo: Do you want to be on stage and in front of the camera or do you want to be behind the scenes?
Finley: “I have a couple goals. One thing in front of the camera that I find really interesting is what I would call ‘animal’ work, which correlates into sci-fi movies. I think it would be cool to put on a lot of makeup and costumes and play an alien role or roles like that.
“I really love theatre too, though. Shakespearean theatre is some of my favorite work.
“Right now, when a show comes in I work behind the stage at the KU Lied Center as a stage hand putting up backdrops, running the lights, helping out with the sound equipment. It is all fascinating to me. Just being involved in it when I can is great.”
GoWyo: Once your throwing career is over are you going to concentrate on your theatre interests or do you have an interest in staying involved in track and field?
Finley: “That is a good question. I really don’t know at this time. I’m not going to shut either door. I’ve put in a lot of work in theatre and it is something I haven’t been able to give myself to 100 percent because I’ve always had track. At some point in my life, I really want to give myself 100 percent to theatre but definitely not until I’m done throwing.
“I love track and field, and I’m at a point where I feel that I have a great understanding of the throw, of lifting and recovery. I think I maybe could be a good coach some day, and I have been a volunteer assistant for the KU team the past year. I’m learning some of the other throws -- other than the discus -- pretty well. I guess I’ll wait and see once my throwing career is over what I decide to pursue at that time.”