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'She's not a quitter:' Westminster senior Kat Devilbiss finds personal, physical strength in shot put

Carroll County Times - 2/27/2020

Feb. 27--When Kat Devilbiss steps into the circle to make a throw, she releases any and all negative energy that has weighed her down.

Devilbiss, a senior at Westminster High School, said she struggles with depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder, and has used shot put as a place of refuge to progress and find success this winter.

"I just try to focus on my technique and how I project the ball to go where I want it to go," Devilbiss said. "My dad always likes to tell me to picture somebody that made you mad out there and try to hit them. Not many people get me to a point where I'm furious, but just thinking about me doing it for my grandmother who passed away really makes everything better."

Kathleen Devilbiss died Oct. 31, 2012, and Kat, whose middle name is Patricia, is named after her.

The death of her grandmother has impacted Kat in many ways, but she continues to let her live on in memory. Medals that Devilbiss won from previous meets hang on a picture of her grandmother in her bedroom and she wrote "Nana," her death date and her favorite Bible verse on her hand before competing at the Class 3A state meet on Feb. 18.

Kat threw 38 feet, 2.25 inches to place second, one-half inch behind North Point's Mekhya Jones' throw of 38-2.75. Two weeks prior, she threw 35-3 to take fourth at the 3A West Region meet. and placed second at the county meet behind Francis Scott Key junior Elizabeth Mahoney after throwing 35-4.

She won the Dickinson College High School Invitational on Jan. 11 with a personal-record 39-1.5, good for the longest throw in Class 3A this winter.

"My mindset wasn't in the right place at counties," Devilbiss said. "I got my stuff together at regionals and did as well as I could for not being as ready as possible. I was comfortable at states and I never got cocky ... I had some pretty tough competition. Even though I had the longest throw in the state at the time, I never let that get to me because throwing is about being humble and being the best you can be at that moment in time."

Devilbiss said her father, Larry, mandated that she compete in a sport upon entering her freshman year at Westminster in 2016. Her father suggested she compete in shot put, so Devilbiss tested the waters for two seasons and hated it at first.

She participated in a throws camp at the United States Naval Academy the following summer where she perfected her skills and met Tyler Blatchley, her current throwing coach. Blatchley is a private coach who specializes in shot put and discus, and he trains Devilbiss once a week at Marriotts Ridge High School.

"She has a really strong personality and she really is a fighter," Blatchley said. "She doubts herself at times, but she's not a quitter. She really has a lot of perseverance and a good support system with her dad, he's a great motivator that believes in her, and me coming in to help and have another voice there to tell her she can do this."

Devilbiss finished 11th out of 12 competitors as last year's state meet and Blatchley said her confidence has grown from every meet and practice.

"It's a little bit of everything," Blatchley said. "She's grown with her technique as a competitor and really her biggest challenge is believing in herself. I don't think she understands how good she can be and we started to see that at states [this year]. She proved that."

Devilbiss has big goals for her final track and field season as a Westminster athlete this spring. A state championship is always the goal, she said, but getting more experience and being a positive figure for other members of the shot put community tie in as well.

"It's important to be calm, collected and kind to your fellow throwers because they're all you've got," Devilbiss said. "You're going to have to be friends with your competitors and cheer everybody on because it's a small group. People don't sit there to watch them in particular unless it's a parent so I've made so many friends through this experience.

"They've rooted me on, no matter what."

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(c)2020 the Carroll County Times (Westminster, Md.)

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