Coach’s gamble pays off with dividends
The outdoor track season is underway and UALR senior Jason Belt is prepared to make it a memorable one. After a stellar season last year, the criminal justice major has his sights set on another great year with the ultimate goal being a regional berth for the team. The discus, hammer and shot put thrower set several school records last season.
The Council Bluffs, Iowa native said he wasn’t always set on taking up track and field.
“My mom played basketball in college, my dad played in high school and they were both real good,” Belt said. “That was one thing that we always did as a family.”
But after having knee issues, Belt’s own basketball career came to an early end and he was asked by his coach to try throwing for the track and field team.
“We went out and we threw and it ended up being pretty fluid; it ended up being pretty natural,” Belt said.
After winning one state title and finishing sixth in another for Thomas Jefferson High School, he admitted, “It ended up being more of a fit than basketball ever did.”
Belt went largely unrecruited after high school because he lacked the size of typical throwers, but after a couple of years at a junior college, he found his way to UALR.
“I knew I needed to go to a place that had a strong weight and conditioning program,” Belt said.
The interaction with UALR Track and Field head coach Milton Williams convinced Belt to make the transfer to UALR.
“The way that coach Williams talked to me, honestly, is what sold me,” Belt said. “We knew it was kind of a gamble. I needed to gain forty to fifty pounds and throw a heck of a lot farther than I was, to be worth anything,” Belt said.
“I appreciated the fact that he was going to take a gamble on me, because other coaches weren’t,” Belt said. “I don’t know a human being that knows as much about strength mechanics, or even kinesiology, than Milton Williams does.”
The gamble paid off for both coach and player as Belt had a great 2012 season after redshirting in 2011.
Belt said he is striving to end the season on a powerful note, as last season didn’t end the way that he anticipated.
“Last year was kind of a bittersweet ending,” Belt said. “We made it to the Regionals and were throwing really well going into the meet.”
“I ended up getting kind of nervous,” he continued. “I fouled some really bad throws and only got one off. It was a rough meet to say the least. The end of the season wasn’t as good as I would have planned,” Belt said.
Belt’s goals remain high for this year and he knows exactly what he wants to accomplish.
“I’d like to hold every throws record,” Belt said.
Belt is already well on his way to accomplishing this feat. He holds all indoor records and, as he turns his focus to the outdoor season, his confidence is at an all time high.
“If there’s a throws record, I want my name next to it,” Belt said.
The team will canvas the country this season, competing in states like California and Florida, challenging even the most experienced student athlete.
“You have to constantly try to better yourself, not only on the track, but in the classroom because that’s more important,” Belt said.
He understands the value of an education and that his athletic career can’t last forever.
“[Throwing] is not going to sustain me for the rest of my life, but my education will.”
There is no questioning Belt’s dedication to the sport.
“Track is what drives me,” Belt said. “I’ve been eating, breathing, and sleeping track for the last three years.”