WESTERVILLE — By noon on Friday, it became clear that there was plenty of purple power on the podium.
That’s because, as part of the Division III state track and field meet —and in the boys shot put in particular — the Valley Indians enjoyed representation from not just one but two individuals.
Valley senior Ryan Benjamin and sophomore Justin Moore, competing in their first state meets, made it to the medals stand and earned all-Ohio honors —as Benjamin placed sixth and Moore muscled eighth in the shot, as Friday’s small-school state meet took place at impressive Westerville North High School.
Benjamin’s best throw of his six, which was his first of his three finals throws, hit 55 feet two and three-quarters inches —which was up from his only preliminary throw which landed good —that being his second at 51 feet and four-and-a-half.
He overcame foul trouble, fouling on his first and final prelim attempts —and again on his final throw of his high school career.
Benjamin —who personal record in the shot put was 55 feet and seven and one quarter inches in winning this year’s Southeast District championship at Northwest — nearly matched that, as only half-a-foot and three inches indeed separated the top seven throwers.
“It feels good to come out, come up here and compete against such really good competition and get good throws in. From seventh-place all the way to second, I think it was only a three or four-foot difference,” said Benjamin. “Once I got that second throw in, it was really important because it really calmed me down. From there, I could just go after every throw and be aggressive. Didn’t have to worry about marks and fouling anymore. Because I had one in, just relax and throw and do what I’ve been doing.”
It was actually Region 11 champion and seventh-place Ben Riegel of Centerburg throwing 54 feet and six inches — to state runner-up Ryan Henry of McDonald throwing a half-inch shy of 58-feet even.
Besides his 55 2 3/4, Benjamin got his second finals throw in at 54-3 —and thought the third throw “felt good” despite officially being ruled a foul.
In fact, he said it probably would have resulted in a new PR.
Benjamin was the Region 11 runner-up, and was chasing after Aaron Crabtree’s Valley High School shot put record which has stood since 2007 — at 56 feet and one inch.
“It’s been a great experience, I had some good throws, and I’ve had a fun time,” he said. “The first (finals) throw, everything felt good and after that, I started feeling my positions. Even though that third throw was a foul, it was probably my best one. Just a little foul where I didn’t keep it in right at the end. Those last two (of prelims) and the last three, I really started feeling everything and putting everything together.”
His teammate Moore, whose shot put PR is 53-5 and who threw 53 feet and four and one-half inches to place third at the regional, was also looking forward to the experience —on Friday and for the next two years.
Moore said he was aiming for consistency, and aside from his lone foul on his fifth throw and second of the finals, he got just that.
His top throw of six was his third of the prelims —at 51 feet three and one-fourth inches.
He opened with two tosses of 47 feet and nine and one-half inches, and one shy of an even 46 —and closed with a 45-5 and 3/4, followed by his final throw of 49-2.
Thus, he finished eighth immediately behind Benjamin (55 2 3/4) and Riegel (54-6), but more importantly on the podium as a sophomore.
“This means a lot. Honestly, I didn’t know how good the throws were going to be when I came up here. But I made it to eighth and I got on the podium, and that is what I came up here to do,” said Moore. “I wanted to throw over 53 and hit a PR, but the 51-3 was good enough to get on the podium. That’s what I am thankful for. I was a little nervous, but that last one (prelim throw) felt like it was a good one and was smooth. I turned back around and kept it in.”
The top eight in each event at the state not only earn team points, but secure a place on the awards podium — plus take home all-Ohio accolades.
As a team, the two Indians amounted for four team points —with Benjamin gaining three and Moore one.
With their Friday placements, both stood side-by-side on the stadium’s medals platform.
“It feels amazing. I’m glad my teammate made it, and we both threw all year trying to get to this point. And we both did it,” said Moore.
“It’s been good to have someone right there with me all year pushing me. He gives me someone to work with, compete with and against every day in practice and get better. He helps out a tremendous amount,” he said.
Valley track and field head coach Jason Fell said it was “a great accomplishment for both Ryan and Justin.”
“To have two of the top eight throwers in the state is pretty special. They have pushed each other in practice all year and it has paid off this last month,” said the coach. “Ryan has had a great ending to his senior season and had a great career here at Valley. He leaves as one of the best shot putters we’ve ever had, and we’ve had a bunch over the years. Justin, being only a sophomore, had a great meet and peaked at the right time of the year. He really stepped up under a lot of pressure and performed great today.”
Dawson Hildebrand (60-9 1/2) of Newton Local, on the final heave of the competition, landed the state championship throw of one half-inch shy of an even 61-feet.
Henry (57-1 1/2) was next, followed by Colby Morlock (57 3 1/2) of Norwayne, Tyler Thompson (56-3) of Rittman and Coleson Kertesz (55-11) of New Middletown Springfield.
Perhaps both Benjamin and Moore would have made it last season, but unfortunately the Ohio High School Athletic Association canceled the 2020 spring sports seasons because of the coronavirus threat.
That made Friday’s appearance even more meaningful, both Benjamin and Moore made claim.
“It’s an honor. All of the work I’ve put in for four years, all of that work to this moment, it’s what I’ve wanted ever since I started. It’s something I love and worked towards every day. It’s what I was hoping for all year,” said Benjamin. “All the workouts before practice and everything have pushed me through to this moment right here right now.”
While Walsh University awaits Benjamin’s presence, Moore has two more opportunities at the state.
And, two chances to move up towards the top of the medals stand.
“I’m glad I have two more years, and honestly, I’m just going to keep getting better and working my way up that podium,” said Moore.
But for Friday, there was indeed purple power in that boys shot put.
On Saturday, Benjamin competed in the boys discus throw —and placed 12th with a best throw of his three preliminaries at an even 145 feet.
His discus PR was 152 feet and four inches, as he finished fourth in the regional meet — and thus double qualified for the state.
“It’s an honor to be in both events,” he said. “It’s a great achievement knowing that all my hard work has paid off with two events at the state meet, not just one.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved