In the summer of 2012, Dennis Doyle and Erica Piccolo became enamored with each other — and the hammer throw sealed the romance.
It all began when, after 30 years of competitive soccer, Dennis found his future in his mailbox. A package from a lifelong soccer friend contained a hammer and the note, “Welcome to your new sport.” Dennis picked up the hammer and hasn’t put it down since.
A few months later Erica was stretching on a foam roller before a CrossFit class when she heard someone mention people’s birth years.
“This guy Dennis said 1966, and I said, ‘that’s a good year.’ We started talking, and I was intrigued that we were the same age — in our forties and doing CrossFit — while most of the others were in their twenties. I liked that he had a wit and good comebacks, and we joked and teased and made each other laugh, but the last thing on my mind was a relationship.”
Nevertheless, one found her, over coffee before another class. Dennis, a good cook, talked about a super muffin packed with energy ingredients. Erica asked for the recipe, giving him her email address. He asked for her phone number.
“Our first deliberate date — I mean planned and while dressed up — was dinner for our favorite Thai food,” Erica recalls. “On the way to the restaurant, there was so much traffic that we had time to talk. I found out later that he hates traffic, but he didn’t complain!”
Their relationship really cemented when Erica saw Dennis throw the hammer at the 2013 State Games.
“I thought it was the coolest thing,” she says. “It looked powerful and fun!”
The next day Erica entered the women’s hammer throw. She was hooked.
“Early in our relationship, here was Dennis, a no-nonsense former soccer coach, trying to teach me the nuances of the hammer throw,” Erica says. “It wasn’t all smooth sailing but the ordeal not only resulted in my achieving age group All-American marks twice but it solidified our connection.”
While they both love the hammer, they didn’t stop there. Dennis does just about every track and field event except the triple jump and javelin, and runs everything from short sprints to middle distances, does long hurdles and the steeplechase. His goal is to make All-American Masters standards in the 400-hurdles, hammer and discus.
“I was a soccer player and always ran,” Dennis says. “Soccer was my true love. I started it at age six or seven, played in high school clubs, college, and some professional. But I found that being able to run and running track are two different animals. In soccer I just ran. You just don’t go out and run 400 meters — there’s strategy in track events. At age 46 I saw that track wasn’t as draining on the body and hung up my soccer cleats.”
Erica likes the shot put, the high, triple and long jump, plus 100- and 200-meter sprints (the speed helps her with jumps). She’s made All-American twice in the hammer throw, once in the high jump, and is trying for the triple and long jump.
“I always liked jumping!” she says. “I tried the discus but didn’t take to it. My small hands don’t give me a good grip. I also enjoy the shot put. Even though I had to run at practices during high school tennis in Hawaii where I grew up, I didn’t care for running. My dad was a sprinter in Hong Kong, and he encouraged me to try track and field. I didn’t try it then because I didn’t know about the fun field events.”
The couple practices throwing together during track and field season when a venue is available and weather cooperates. Otherwise, they enjoy spending time together working out on a track, trails, or their home fitness equipment in Lake Oswego. They joined the Portland Masters Track Club where he is now vice-president and she is secretary. He also runs the club’s Thursday night trainings.
Since 2007 Dennis has managed the indoor soccer facility for the City of Sherwood. Currently closed due to COVID-19, he is currently working at the Sherwood Senior Center prepping and delivering meals to seniors.
Erica, who has an 18-year-old daughter, Ashley, and a 20-year-old son, Hunter, was a certified CrossFit coach. She liked that the hammer throw put all her CrossFit training to work, giving it purpose. A licensed lawyer in Hawaii, she works as a paralegal, undecided about taking the Oregon bar.
They now attend every meet together, and while they enter just about every event, the favorite for both is the hammer throw. The women’s throw is usually just before the men’s and they cheer each other on.
Fate brought them together in a fitness class but, like Cupid’s arrow, the hammer found its mark in their hearts.