TACOMA – Caleb Johnson knew there were small things in his technique he needed to perfect to come close to the distances required in his tosses to claim a state championship.
If he were being honest, he really just expected to set some personal records.
He did that, and then some. Johnson spent Friday afternoon at the State 3A track and field championships setting personal records on three consecutive tosses to unexpectedly coast to the boys discus championship at Mt. Tahoma High School.
“I just expected to get some (personal records) today. I knew it was going to be a good competition, I just wanted to rise above it,” Johnson said.
The Shadle Park senior consecutively tossed 161 feet, 4 inches, 164-2 and then a monster shot of 169-4 to seal the title by nearly 10 feet from the second-closest competitor, Carl Brooks III of Wilson.
Brooks came in the favorite with a seed distance of 168-3. Johnson, meanwhile, hadn’t tossed more than 160 feet all year. A season-long training regimen of a smooth delivery in the circle, staying back during the delivery and, ultimately, some rest to keep the legs fresh this week leading up to the competition all contributed to Johnson’s soaring numbers.
“Honestly, (Johnson) has been smooth all year. We’re just kind of resting him a little bit, not doing as much practicing just to keep his legs strong,” Shadle Park assistant coach Nathan Clayton said. “We knew he had it … We knew he could throw 169. We knew he could hit that high, he just had to go through everything right and that’s what he did.”
Early on, it seemed to be a battle. Brooks hit 156-7 his first toss before Johnson took the lead on his second throw. Brooks’ next throws of 157-5 and 159-8 were within 5 feet of the lead and seemed to indicate danger.
Johnson’s winning throw added a bit of relief.
“Oh, man. We knew that (Brooks) was right behind him. We knew he was capable of hitting 160s,” Clayton said. “We basically told Caleb just to focus on him. Not try to listen to or watch (Carl) throw or what his marks are because we didn’t want that to get in his head. He stayed off to the side and stayed focused on himself.”
Charles Johnson isn’t happy with the taste of second place. He isn’t happy with coming agonizingly close.
Johnson twice came within one-half second of claiming gold during last season’s track championships, in the 100 meters and 200 meters. He’ll have an opportunity to rectify both of those races today when he competes again in the finals of both competitions.
“This year, I wanted to win everything. I don’t want to get second anymore like last year. That kind of left a bad taste in my mouth,” Johnson said.
Johnson came in as the favorite in both events and delivered during the preliminaries, taking the top spot in the 100 with a time of 10.95 seconds and winning his 200 heat, finishing second overall by three-tenths of a second at 21.87.
Additionally, he was a part of Cheney’s 4x100 relay team that took first place in Friday’s preliminary race with a 42.52. He’ll also be a part of Cheney’s 4x400 relay team looking to defend its 2017 title.
He bears the burden of leadership on all fronts. Cheney is expected to take gold in all four events.
“It’s a way different mindset, because you always have to do your best at practice, run your best at meets and if you don’t run your best at meets you just have to work,” Johnson said.
“It forces me to work way harder than I ever thought possible.”