Mike Kelley made his mom, Tina, cry. But it was a good thing.
The University High School senior stepped into the concrete ring in the southeast corner of the U-Hi football field for his first attempt in the Eastern Regional Class 4A discus competition and uncorked a 160-foot, two-inch throw – bettering his personal best by 15 feet.
“My mom and my friends were in the stands watching,” Kelley said. “I thought I’d thrown about 140 feet and looked down at the tape as they were stretching it out. It just kept going and going.
“When they announced on the loudspeaker what it was, Mom started to cry, and my friends all started to jump up and down. Then I had to grab my phone and call my dad to tell him what I’d done.”
The mark was good enough to win the regional, sending Kelley to his first state track and field meet in both the shot put, where he earlier had posted a 52-5 to earn a state berth, and discus.
“Mom and Dad were both really proud,” Kelley said. “Mom was still a little misty after the meet.”
The problem with uncorking a big throw on your first effort of a big meet is the wait. With each throw, you wonder if another competitor will catch lightning in a bottle as well, unleashing a personal best.
The 160-foot throw set the bar high for the rest of the regional field. In the end, it was just too far out of reach.
“I think I scared the other guys,” Kelley joked. “After that throw, I just treated the rest of the meet like it was a practice. I watched the other guys warm up, and they just kept going and getting tired.”
That first throw would end up being the meet’s best effort by more than 10 feet.
Kelley said he felt a throw of that distance has been in him all season, waiting to come out in a big meet. Despite the fact that his meet-best mark going into the final day of the regional was just 145 feet, he knew he was just one good throw away from going to state.
“I’ve had really good coaching,” Kelley said, referring to U-Hi throws coach Amanda Velasquez. “I’ve thrown pretty well in practice, but I hadn’t really uncorked that big throw in a meet. But I knew it would only take one good throw.”
Despite the raw power events like the shot and discus seem to require, each requires great, precise technique.
“You can tell when you do something wrong,” Kelley said. “But when you get everything right, when you put it all together, it feels almost effortless.”
That was the case Saturday.
“That was it, exactly,” he said. “It came so easily that I didn’t feel it at all. That’s why I was so surprised when the tape kept going and kept going.”
Kelley competed Friday in the shot put at Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco. Today he competes in the discus.
I’ve been trying to get to this meet for four years,” Kelley said. “I always came a foot short here or a couple feet short there.”
Thursday Kelley worked out at Edgar Brown Stadium, his last workout before competition began Friday morning at 8 a.m. with the shot put.
“I was checking out the rest of the competition, sure,” Kelley laughed. “But I’m not intimidated by any of those guys. The only thing I’m worried about is some skinny guy throwing better than me. I’m bigger than most of these guys, and I don’t like it when they throw better than me.”
Kelley said he knows what he’ll be doing during the state meet.
“I’ll go out first thing and do my best in the shot put, then I’m going to spend the rest of the day cheering on all of my teammates,” he said. “I’m going to enjoy this whole experience.”
In the meantime, he said, he will go over his technique in his mind.
“I think 50 percent of these events is mental,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll be going over everything in my mind again and again.
“The one thing I know is that it all comes down to one good throw.”
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