Gazette Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year: Logan Alfandari, Amherst

Amherst’s Logan Alfandari competes in the discus throw at the MIAA Division 4 Outdoor Track & Field Championships earlier this spring in Westfield.

Amherst’s Logan Alfandari competes in the discus throw at the MIAA Division 4 Outdoor Track & Field Championships earlier this spring in Westfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO

By CONNOR PIGNATELLO

Staff Writer

Published: 07-09-2024 12:52 PM

LEVERETT — Logan Alfandari was cleaning his attic in late February when he stumbled upon a DVD set he hadn’t seen in years.

He popped the disc for “Avatar: The Last Airbender” into his brother’s PlayStation and started watching.

Alfandari had just come off a difficult indoor track season. He hadn’t progressed the way he wanted and was frustrated with himself. In the DVD, he found a message. He wanted to be more like Uncle Iroh, a mentor to one of the series’ main characters.

“I’ve been so selfish,” Alfandari said. “And such an a****** to my teammates and so pent up and taking my anger out in ways that aren’t helpful, and my anger was about things that I couldn’t change.”

He decided he needed to be better. He was overthinking his form and overthinking his place among other throwers in the state. After months of isolating himself in the Amherst track and field team and focusing only on his own performances, he resolved to take a larger role with the rest of the group, especially with its new throwers.

“The more I helped coach, the more it helped visualize what I was trying to fix in my own technique,” Alfandari said. “As Iroh once said, ‘the best way to help yourself is to help others.’”

Alfandari changed the way he thought about the sport, and ripped off a historic outdoor campaign in his junior season. He won the MIAA Division 4 state championship in the shot put – his first career state title – and claimed silver in the discus. His marks steadily rose, he felt more in control, and most of all, he was happier. For the second year in a row, Alfandari was selected as the Daily Hampshire Gazette Boys Outdoor Track & Field Player of the Year for 2024.

Alfandari started to explore shot put and discus as a seventh-grader in March 2020. As the pandemic raged, he spam-emailed his coach for advice and binge-watched YouTube videos of the shot put.

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He finally got out to the track for the first time in eighth grade, where he made his first-ever shot put throw – 16 feet. For context, his current PR is 56 feet, 6.75 inches.

“Every time I tried to throw the 12-pound shot, the 12-pound shot threw me,” Alfandari said.

The summer before his freshman year, he spent his afternoons biking the six miles from his house in Leverett to Amherst High, and he improved his discus mark from 60 feet in June 2021 to 122 feet in April 2022.

He dove headfirst into the sport. Three days before the start of his sophomore year, he poured his own concrete throwing circle in his backyard. The concrete needed 20 days to solidify, but Alfandari was so antsy to get going that he began using it after six days, which caused some parts of it to be more worn down than others. He signed his initials into the side of it and knows every square centimeter of the concrete.

“How many kids pour their own circle?” Amherst throwing coach Sarah Hickman said. “He’s definitely cut from a different cloth, that one.”

Alfandari started a 9,000 calorie-per-day diet in the beginning of his sophomore year, and grew from 180 pounds to 330 pounds by March 2023. On the four days a week he lifted, he downed a 4,500-calorie protein shake, comprised of 15 Oreos, half a cup of peanut butter, three scoops of Whey protein, half a gallon of milk, and a dash of peppermint extract to help him get it down. 

He ate six to eight eggs, a bowl of oatmeal and a grapefruit for breakfast every day and finished several dinners each night. He downed pasta with Italian sausage and marinara and pasta with steak and Alfredo sauce, and on weekly wing night, he cleaned up 36 wings. 

“I wanted to gain that much weight because I got into the mindset of more number equals more number,” Alfandari said, pointing to an imaginary scale on the ground and a throwing mark in the distance.

But even when he stopped intentionally bulking, he kept gaining weight, so much so that it was difficult for him to perform. Since, he’s cut down to 5,000 calories a day and 250 pounds – his ideal weight – while still gaining strength. 

Through his incessant lifting in the gym, Alfandari grew to be the strongest athlete in the school. He now benches 365 pounds, squats 600, cleans 335 and snatches 275.

“Freshman year, he was an absolute twig,” Hickman said. “I caught up with him indoor (season) sophomore year and he had morphed into this ninja turtle, and I was like ‘holy smokes.’”

But toward the end of his sophomore outdoor season, Alfandari tore his pectoral muscle, an injury that kept him away from the shot put and the discus for the entire summer. When his junior fall began, he felt behind, frantic to make up for lost time.

As the indoor season went on, Alfandari watched rivals across the state overtake him as he struggled to progress. He threw 51 feet over and over again. 

He dissected videos from meets and came to Hickman wanting to fundamentally change his technique after poor performances. When he made it to states, he stressed about the competitors with higher marks than him. It was a “hair-pulling nightmare,” Alfandari said.

“For the first part of outdoor season, I was like ‘I can’t help you, I’m too busy helping myself, I’m too busy working on my own season,’” Alfandari said. “OK, restart. I’m going to help you be the best thrower you can be.”

He began coaching his teammates and helped run practice if Hickman couldn’t make it. He helped novice sophomore Yairelis Bachand qualify for the state championship and novice senior Ethan Vulcan-Sowekey increase his PR from 19 feet to 31 feet. It helped him get back on track, both mentally and physically.

Instead of going all-out to try to beat competitors, he leaned into practicing his fundamentals and composing himself at meets.

He listened to Hickman’s strategies more, and focused on putting a safe throw in on his first attempt and building from it, rather than trying a riskier approach and throwing from a point of deficit if he fouled on his first try. Instead of trying to fix five different technique items at once during a meet, he’d focus on just one, like making sure he landed properly or had an explosive finish.

Gradually, his distances started to climb. 

After underperforming his seed at indoor state championships, Alfandari performed as expected at outdoor states, and claimed his first state championship as a result. He set new PRs in both discus and shot put at the MIAA Meet of Champions and traveled to Eugene, Ore. for the first time to participate in Nike Outdoor Nationals. He said this past outdoor campaign was the most in-control season he’s ever had.

“Mentally, I was a lot less antsy, a lot less like I felt I had to prove myself to everyone else like everyone was out to get me,” Alfandari said. “I felt a lot more at peace, just a lot happier.”