At an indoor track and field meet at Virginia Tech back in February, Brian Waterfield ’15, M.Acc. ’16 hit a huge throw in the weight — the All-American’s first over 71 feet. That throw was a breakthrough. Literally. The 35-pound tungsten weight took one bounce, broke through a door at the indoor facility and went rolling down an outside sidewalk. While Waterfield and assistant track and field coach Alex Heacock ’09 celebrated, head coach Stephen Walsh went chasing after one of the team’s most expensive pieces of equipment along the concrete path.
But it was a breakthrough in other ways. The school-record throw qualified Waterfield for the NCAA Indoor Championships, where he finished 11th. He is the first thrower ever from William & Mary to qualify for the indoor championship meet. In the hammer, which he competes in during the outdoor season, Waterfield owns 13 of the top 14 all-time marks (including the top seven throws) and is a two-time CAA champion. Both of his gold-medal throws — one in 2013, the other in 2016 — earned him conference records.
With accolades like these, it would seem Waterfield has been a thrower for most of his life. But that’s not the case — he only had three competitive seasons of track and field before coming to William & Mary. Up until his junior year of high school, the Chesapeake, Va., native only played football. Waterfield was lifting one day when a coach came in the weight room and asked if anyone wanted to take a crack at the shot put. Waterfield gave it a try and went on to compete in the state meet his junior outdoor track season. He placed second in the state the following year.
But when the time came to pick a college, athletics weren’t the first thing on Waterfield’s mind. “I knew coming out of high school that I wanted to go somewhere with a strong academic program because the chances of doing anything professional in track and field are very, very slim,” he says. “At the end of the day, I knew I wanted something I could do the rest of my life.”
He also knew he wanted to stay close to home. Waterfield narrowed his choices down to the University of Virginia and William & Mary. Ultimately, Coach Dan Stimson played a major role in Waterfield’s decision to compete for the Tribe. “He made me feel so comfortable,” Waterfield says. “He made my parents feel like I was getting a new adoptive grandfather. He really looked out for me.”
Stimson also found Waterfield his signature event. The coach was convinced his athlete would make a great hammer thrower. It would be a new event for Waterfield, who only competed in the shot and disc during high school. Waterfield claims he picked up the hammer decently at best his freshman year, throwing just behind 155 feet, not at all competitive. But he was hooked.
“I fell in love with the hammer pretty much immediately,” says Waterfield. “It’s so technical and complex. There are so many components that can go wrong. But when it all comes together, it just feels amazing.”
“Brian is a very unique athlete in that he is very quick to learn new skills and nuances to his throwing technique,” Heacock says. “Usually with one simple verbal directive, he is able to turn a technical concept into a precise movement, and that is a very special quality. Additionally, he’s an incredibly motivated and hardworking student-athlete, which makes him very easy to work with.”
Back in June at the NCAA Eastern Preliminaries, Waterfield took 14th in the hammer, just two spots shy of advancing to the NCAA finals. With six throws of 212 feet or better this past spring alone, he also added the IC4A title earlier in the season with a school-record throw of 221 feet, 67 feet better than his first throws as a freshman.
Indoors, Waterfield earned second-team All-American honors in the weight throw. He threw 13 of the top-16 marks in school history in the weight, including each of the top eight. He is the first non-javelin thrower for W&M to ever earn All-American status.
“I always wanted to be an All-American,” Waterfield says. “I didn’t think it was possible. I probably doubted myself more than I believed in myself. Not the most positive mindset for an athlete, but that probably motivated me at the same time.”
The records, the medals, the titles, they all come down to one fact: Waterfield is addicted to reaching the next level. Known as the guy on the team who always puts in the work — almost an excessive amount — Waterfield is a ruthless pursuer of perfection, pushing himself beyond what most people would be willing to put themselves through and often throwing until he can’t throw anymore.
“I just always wanted to be good,” he says. “I’ve never really been satisfied with anything because I know that there’s always a way to get better. It was part of the decision to do track and field in college. I wasn’t great at it coming out of high school, so there was that potential to learn and grow as an athlete. That process is what got me to stick with this.”
ACCOUNTING ATHLETE: A graduate of W&M’s master of accounting program, Waterfield will join CPA firm McPhillips, Roberts & Deans in Norfolk, Va., in September
“I don’t think I’ve ever coached someone who has wanted to be good as much as Brian,” Heacock says. “Even as success has come his way — and lots of it has — he has constantly pressed forward to make himself a better thrower and a stronger athlete, and has achieved greater things as a result.”
At this year’s CAA Championships, Waterfield won the hammer throw with a conference record and placed fourth in the discus. But perhaps his boldest performance came in the shot put. Due to an injury sustained last spring (the handle on his hammer broke, and he shattered all the cartilage in his wrist), he hadn’t trained or competed in the event all year. He finished second.
“Brian picked up the shot put in practice a total of two times during the week prior to the meet, and ended up putting forth a great, gutsy performance that gave our team a big lift,” says Heacock. “The performance spoke volumes about him as a teammate and competitor.”
Waterfield was named Most Outstanding Performer, the first Tribe athlete to win athlete of the meet honors twice (he was previously honored in 2013).
“Brian is an outstanding leader and sets a great example for his teammates and fellow student-athletes,” says Heacock. “Nobody in the athletic department that has known Brian has been surprised by his success. His desire and work ethic have been evident to everyone for the past five years.”
It hasn’t always been easy for Waterfield, though. Especially his semester last fall, being in W&M’s master of accounting program. Almost all of his classes were held during practice times. But he worked with his coaches around his class schedule. Waterfield would lift in the morning, meet Heacock at 10 a.m. for practice, shower, eat and go to class from 12 until five. “I’m not going to lie. It really wasn’t fun,” Waterfield says. “It was probably one of the most challenging semesters of my entire college career. I was exhausted. But you’ve got to put in that work. I probably made the most improvements during that time because I was so focused.”
Back in June, Waterfield was named to the CoSIDA Track and Field/Cross Country Academic All-District team as one of the top-10 student-athletes in the Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee regions. He was the only graduate student on the 10-member team for District III; the other nine were all seniors.
After earning an undergraduate degree in finance last year, Waterfield completed his coursework in W&M’s graduate accounting program. In October, he’ll marry former William & Mary javelin thrower Kayla Trantham ’14. All of his groomsmen are Tribe throwers.
Waterfield will start as an audit associate for McPhillips, Roberts & Deans, a CPA firm in Norfolk, Va., in September. “I have no idea what led me to be an accountant, but I’ve always been good at math,” he says. “I knew I needed to do something math-related. I walk in and people are like, ‘Wow, you’re the biggest accountant we’ve ever seen.” The firm has recruited him for their slow-pitch softball team, so he’ll still be an athlete.
As an intern at the firm last year, Waterfield woke up every day excited to go to work and was usually the first person in the office. It’s that pursuit of perfection, the drive to learn and the ambition to become better that made him the athlete he is, and it’s what will continue to help him succeed in the next chapter of his life.
“I’ve been perfecting track and field every day for the last five years, and I’ve gotten really good at it,” says Waterfield. “But I’m jumping into something where I’m going to have to learn a lot, and I’m not going to be the best or anywhere close to it. Having to learn something and try to master a new topic, that’s going to be a challenge, but it’s exciting to me. I think that’s how I’ve thrived my entire life.”