When Zack and Nicole Lloyd met in Utah, you could say they found themselves in the throes of competition, and romance.
The two track and field throwers hit it off so well that they got married in December 2005.
After transferring to Arizona this season, the two juniors push each other to be at the top of the leaderboard in shot put and discus.
“When we first started dating, it was like, ‘I don’t know if I’ll be that good,’ ” Nicole said. “But Zack always thought I could be a good thrower, which was really encouraging. He’s always had a lot of faith in me.”
Motivating each other has paid off.
Heading into the Pac-10 championships this weekend at Arizona State, the 5-foot-10 Nicole is ranked fourth in the shot put and seventh in the discus in the West.
The 6-foot-2, 305-pound Zack ranks third nationally in the shot put and seventh in the West in the discus. He qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials along with UA senior Shawn Best.
“They spend every minute together,” UA throwing coach Craig Carter said of the couple. “They’re not only married, but best friends.”
The two share the entire day together, each majoring in regional development and attending the same classes.
“This is how we look at that: Once we get out into the real world, we’re not going to be together as much,” Zack said. “I’m going to do my job; she’s going to do her job.
“We can do it now and love being with each other and try to do as much as we can before we have to get real jobs.”
And for now, they are having fun setting personal records.
At an April meet in San Diego, Nicole had her best shot put performance (52-5 feet) and followed that with a discus throw of 170-1 feet and a personal-best 168-5 feet in the hammer toss.
Zack wasn’t going to be outdone. He set a career best in the shot put (65-5 feet) – good for second on the all-time UA list – and discus (185-6 feet).
“We try to keep each other upbeat and positive,” said Nicole, 22. “I hit those two personal records the day before, and he didn’t throw anything that day. The next day, he set a personal record in the shot put and discus.”
Zack, 23, said: “I try to help out as much as I can with her. She starts struggling with sticking points mentally and I try to help, try talking her through it. The same thing goes with me. I get a sticking point and she helps me talk through it and that’s basically how we help each other out.”
Carter coached Zack at Utah State before taking a job at UA. Nicole was at Utah.
The two athletes decided to transfer to UA when Carter took his job at Arizona, but they first had to take classes at Mesa Community College to get their associate’s degrees.
The throwing couple helped Carter “not only establish what I want to do in this program, but with recruiting down the road,” he said.
“They work harder than anybody,” Carter said. “Other people on the track team tend to joke that they are thinking about throwing and they are always doing drills, but that’s what makes them so good.”
PAC-10 TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS
When: Friday-Saturday, 5 p.m.
Where: ASU’s Joe Sellah Track at Sun Angel Stadium, Tempe
Cost: $15 per day; $20 for 2 days
OTHER CATS TO WATCH AT PAC-10 CHAMPIONSHIPS
MEN: Senior sprinter Bobby McCoy (200, 400 meters); and junior Luis Rivera-Morales and senior Daniel Marshall in the long jump and triple jump events.
WOMEN: Sophomores Jasmin Day and Elizabeth Patterson are two of four Pac-10 athletes to clear 6 feet in the high jump this season; junior Shevell Quinley (100-meter hurdles – 13.71) and senior Ashley Gadsen (400 meters).