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Whitworth’s Carter Comito breaks 50-year-old school record in discus

The Peace Corps is still around, but among other things that came into being in 1961 Fred Shaffer’s discus record outlasted the Berlin Wall, “Mr. Ed” and Roger Maris’ asterisk.

It just couldn’t outlast Carter Comito.

Records are, indeed, meant to be broken – some not until they’re good and ready.

When Comito hurled the discus 194 feet, 11 inches at last weekend’s Spike Arlt Invitational in Ellensburg, the Whitworth University sophomore brought down the oldest school track and field record hereabouts – the mark of 185-3 1/2 Shaffer set in winning the NAIA championship 50 years ago.

“I’m a little sad,” Shaffer admitted, “but that’s a nice round figure.”

There’s another record on the Whitworth books that dates to 1961, but Bruce Reid’s 24- 1/4 long jump at the old Evergreen Conference championships turns out to have been wind-aided, according to The Spokesman-Review account of the meet. Chet Doughty’s 23-10 jump from 1997 is the best known wind-legal Whitworth mark.

Comito and his Pirates teammates are off to the Northwest Conference championships this weekend in McMinnville, Ore., but he’s already taking aim at the NCAA Division III title – and understandably, since he’s the national leader by 20 feet.

“It’s something I think about every day,” Comito said, “going to nationals and being first. I went last year and came in kind of scared. I’d never been in a meet like that and I was too timid – I didn’t get after it – and ended up 10th. I’ll be more prepared this time.”

He certainly was prepared in Ellensburg, having come up a foot short of Shaffer’s record the week before. His first fair mark reached 183-9, then two fouls followed before he sent one out 187-2. An “adrenaline boost” on his last attempt produced the biggie.

And big it was. It’s the No. 11 mark among all throwers in the United States this spring and fifth among all collegians, including Division I competitors. But that only serves to put Shaffer’s throw in historical context: In 1961, his heave was only 11 feet behind the American and world records owned by Olympic silver medalist Rink Babka, and less than 5 feet behind the existing collegiate record.

Not bad for a West Valley kid who’d picked up the discus as a high school senior and received his only real specialized coaching in the Army for six months when he happened to be stationed at Fort Lewis with eventual world-record holder Jay Silvester.

Comito’s a raw talent in the same mold: He didn’t turn out for track until his senior year at Mead.

“I was a wrestler and I’d gone to state that year, but didn’t do well,” he recalled. “I didn’t want to end my athletic career being unhappy with how I’d done, and the coach at Mead, John Mires, had tried to get me out before, so I did it.

“I loved it. Wrestling is really intense and physical; track is more focused on technique. You’re doing one movement over and over and trying to correct all these small things.”

That late start produced a best of 151-3, but no trip to state – and no recruiting buzz whatsoever. He almost followed a brother to wrestle at Nebraska- Kearney before his academic credentials earned him an appealing aid package at Whitworth. There, he’s dropped about 20 pounds from his wrestling weight of 285 (“It was 300”) and receives a wealth of tutoring from throws coach Gary Baskett, strength coach Derrick Dewindt and Drew Ulrick, a Spokane thrower who’s reached 206 feet himself. Comito dabbles in the shot put, too, but Baskett tattled that, “He doesn’t like it as well – he does it to please me.

“A couple days ago he’s hanging on the fence by the ring and tells me, ‘I got online and I’m like 34th in the world.’ Well, that’s exactly what I want – I want kids thinking at a higher level. Who says you can’t be an Olympian? There’s no hot rod young guys out there right now. And Carter’s the kind of kid that when he finds out he can be good at something, he’ll work really hard at it.”

Bell lap

Washington State hosts its only home meet of the season Saturday, the Cougar Invitational, with Idaho and the Community Colleges of Spokane joining the mix. … Eastern Washington’s Taymussa Miller will mark her calendar for the Beach Invitational next year. At that meet last weekend, the sophomore from Hanford had a nearly 4-inch improvement in the high jump to 5-8 3/4 and a 17-inch gain in the long jump to 18-4 1/2. … Decisions, decisions: CCS’ latest find, Glacier Peak freshman Stephenie Cummings, is the NWAACC leader in every race from 100 through 800, and has set the school record with a 55.06 400. … From the still-going-strong department: former Cougar Blessing Ufodiama is the American leader in the triple jump off a 45-7 whopper two weekends ago.