Zeb Hoffman has been laying low this outdoor track and field season, but expect that to change this weekend.
He traveled with his team to Ashland, Oregon, on Thursday afternoon to compete in the Cascade Collegiate Conference track and field championships, which begin Friday at Southern Oregon University.
That’s where the postseason road begins for Hoffman, a 37-year-old senior at The Evergreen State College.
It’s a road that he hopes will end with a second consecutive NAIA title in the hammer throw.
“I do feel confident,” Hoffman said. “Training has been going really well. … Everything is coming together at the right time. This is the time of the year to throw far.”
That being said, Hoffman speaks highly of his competition — notably two throwers from Concordia of Nebraska who are atop the national rankings.
“Nothing is going to be handed,” he said. “It’s going to be a slugfest.”
Hoffman has thrown twice in competition this spring but has remained near the top of the national rankings since he threw a season-best mark of 59.25 meters in April in Forest Grove, Oregon.
He said he’s dealt with some shoulder pain this season but has worked extensively with trainers for the past week, and he thinks he will be in good health this weekend — and in even better health for nationals, which begin May 25 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
“I feel way better,” Hoffman said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be a monster throw like it was last year at the conference championships, but it’ll be good.”
Hoffman, a Capital High School graduate, won the CCC title last season with a personal-best throw of 64.84 meters and went on to win the national title two weeks later at 60.28.
From there, he just kept throwing.
Hoffman said he trained through July, took about three weeks off, then started up again in August.
He took an internship in the fall at the University of Washington, working with athletes as a strength and conditioning assistant.
He helped athletes go through workouts in the weight room, improving their technique, and he occasionally tossed a hammer.
When winter rolled around, Evergreen didn’t hold an indoor track and field season because of funding, but Hoffman still found throwing outlets.
He set an American Masters record for men ages 35-39 in the indoor superweight throw. He tossed the 56-pound superweight 12.97 meters on Dec. 23 at a meet in Snohomish. The record was approved by USA Track and Field in February.
Throwing as an unattached athlete, Hoffman then qualified for the USATF indoor championships, which were held in March in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“It was a big deal to qualify,” Hoffman said. “It’s kind of been something that’s been on my checklist for a long time.”
He competed against the best post-collegiate throwers in the country and finished 10th in the weight throw.
Hoffman said he didn’t throw as well as he’d wanted to, but just qualifying and being in that environment was satisfying.
“Two years ago, I remember watching it on my computer,” Hoffman said. “Years before that, I’d watch the live results on my computer because they didn’t have a video feed.
“I’d just watch them update distances and imagine what was happing. … It was really cool just to be there.”
This spring, Hoffman is on the cusp of defending his national title in his final year of outdoor eligibility.
He’s spent the quarter working with athletes at Evergreen and local high schoolers on strength and conditioning — tailing off what he did at UW — and plans to continue that when the season concludes.
“If I can help serve athletes, I will,” he said.
What his throwing future holds, Hoffman isn’t sure, but he still has items on his checklist. He hasn’t thrown at the USATF outdoor championships.
His coach, former UW thrower Martin Bingisser, who coaches him remotely from Switzerland, was in town during the holidays and joked about Hoffman possibly being one of the older competitors at the Olympic trials.
Hoffman said throwing has been a priority for a long time, and he’s focused on making his family a greater priority following this season. But, maybe someday, competing at the trials wouldn’t be an impossible feat.
“I’d love to be the 40-year-old guy at the trials throwing a PR,” Hoffman said.