COLUMBUS — Perhaps this was a normal, non-descript, throw-away walk from just outside Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium last Friday afternoon.
Yet, there quietly was some symbolism — or at least I thought so, and maybe so did Valley’s Justin Moore.
Moore had just finished fifth in the Division III boys state shot put competition —as part of the annual state track and field meet.
He broke his own personal record, and his own Valley High School mark, which he had established merely an entire week earlier — at the Region 11 championship meet at Southeastern High School.
It was good for 58 feet and six and one-quarter inches, which held up for fifth through the following two preliminary throws —and all the way through the nine-man three-throw finals.
Tagging alongside Moore as the shot put placers made their walk, from outside the stadium and across Fred Taylor Drive to inside the fabulous facility to the awards podium, the six-foot and four-inch but interview-shy Indian discussed —more casual conversation than anything —his performance, and already his prospects of returning to the state meet for his senior season.
For he was already, officially, a two-time all-Ohioan in the shot put — after placing eighth in the event as a sophomore.
With Friday’s fifth-place performance, he eclipsed the sixth place of his 2021 Valley throwing teammate Ryan Benjamin —who was the Indians’ previous highest placer on that state shot put podium.
Indeed, we hadn’t even reached the center point of the stadium and the media tent —and Moore was already explaining about, AT LEAST, a top-three state showing for his senior spring.
By that time, as part of the group making its walk, we found ourselves at its front —trailing only the event’s official.
Walking and talking, to the front of the pack, at the same time.
Moore said he has a minimum goal of placing among the top-three, and of course his goal for his final season in Purple and Gold is in fact that state championship.
I’m inclined to believe that Moore makes that possible, given his six-feet to seven-feet increase in throws already from 2021 to 2022.
Moore, in an interview following late May’s Region 11 shot put championship, said last season was all about upper-body strength and muscling throws for scores —whereas this campaign has been all about actual form.
Moore made good with the Southeast District championship and a toss of 54 feet and one inch, then captured the regional title — with THEN a Valley school record and a personal-best throw of 58-3.
He picked up where he left off in the regional, and wasted no time with his first prelims throw — going for his 58-6 1/4.
His other two tosses in the prelims were for 56 feet and four and one-half inches followed by a foul —as he also fouled on his middle finals throw, sandwiched between 56 feet and seven-and-a-half inches and 57-1.
Moore was the highest-placing junior of the three on the podium —ahead of sixth-place Tyler Thompson of Rittman (53 feet and 11 and one-half inches) and eighth-place J.T. Patrick of Margaretta (50 feet and three and one-quarter inches).
The only underclassman ahead of him was the state champion —sophomore Dillon Morlock of Norwayne with a massive heave of 65 feet and four and one-fourth inches.
His brother, Norwayne senior Colby Morlock, was the state runner-up —at one inch shy of 65 feet flat.
The only others in front of Moore were a pair of McDonald seniors —at third and fourth for throws of at least 59-4.
Truth be told, 60 feet at the state — at least in Division III — normally lands you in the top three for boys.
That will be Moore’s next goal, as he tried hard for it with his final five throws from Friday.
He will also throw again during the 2023 indoor season, as he was sixth in that state meet —which is sanctioned by the Ohio Track and Cross Country Coaches Association, and is held every early March at the Spire Institute in Geneva.
“I’m already looking forward to next season,” said Moore. “And I plan to be a contender for the state championship.”
With the work he put in during the off-season, and even in-season with his throwing coaches and considering his hunger already, there’s no reason not to think he won’t indeed accomplish that top-three platform placing.
Perhaps, symbolically but unnoticeable, our front-of-the-group walk across Fred Taylor Drive to inside the “JO” was just those first steps.
By this time next year, I also anticipate him having more confidence in in-person interviews.
That’s because there’s many more coming.
Incidentally, speaking of great college venues, Moore made his weekend complete —with a football-related recruiting visit to Lane Stadium and Virginia Tech.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved