CHARLESTON --If any one athlete from the Herald & Review-area put themselves on the map statewide at this weekend's IHSA State Track Meet, it was Tuscola junior thrower Stephen Gibson.
Gibson had an outstanding season, winning both the shot put and discus at the Okaw Valley Conference Meet and establishing himself as the best thrower in the area outside of Stewardson-Strasburg's Jason Fry.
But Gibson's shot put of 49-10 at sectionals was only the ninth-best in the field going into state, and he barely made state in discus. It took him until his last throw at sectionals to meet the qualifying standard of 143-0, and his throw of 145-3 was just 16th-best among the state discus throwers.
At sectionals, Gibson said he was just glad he was able to throw well enough to make state and would show what he was capable of when he got there. Gibson backed up his words, recording his best throws of the season to take second to Fry in the shot put (52-3 1/4) and fourth in the discus (159-06).
With Illini West's Blaze Murfin the only underclassman to finish ahead of Gibson at state, Gibson will be a contender for the title in both events next year. Not bad for an athlete making his first state appearance.
"The main key to improving was having Coach (Stan) Wienke around -- he's the best throws coach in the state, I think," Gibson said. "I also lifted a lot of weights in the winter. And I just got bigger and stronger.
"But when the year started, I never saw myself ending the season on the medals stand. Even earlier this week, this was beyond my expectations."
Gibson is going to play basketball next year, but an injury to his left shoulder has likely ended what was a promising football career.
"I already miss it," Gibson said of football. "But it does give me a chance to focus more on throwing. I didn't even pick up a throwing implement this year until the season started, and that's not how you become one of the top two throwers in the state."
Argenta-Oreana's Austin Wenskunas finished his high school career with three medals in the long jump. He never won a state title, but helped this year's state champion -- Neoga's Corey Kersey -- reach the level he has.
"(Kersey) was telling me that at the area best meet last year I pushed him to jump his first 22 (feet) ever," Wenskunas said. "He had jumped a 21-9, then I showed up late and jumped a 21-11.
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"He was like, 'Whoa man,' and then pulled out a 22-5. I was like, 'Dang.' But it's cool sharing those memories with guys from different meets you've been in with them."
Wenskunas will head to McKendree College to play football next year, and said he might run track if he feels like he can handle the workload.
Clearing his mind
Newton sophomore Brock Mammoser has some great coaches in his three brothers (Eric, Scott and Mitch), who are decorated high school and college pole vaulters.
But, he said, sometimes the messages get muddled.
"I've practiced with all of them individually, and they're all different -- they all jump different," Mammoser said. "They all eventually get to the same base, but one is telling me one thing and the other is telling me something different.
"Scott, though, the last time we practiced, just said, 'Use your athleticism and do what feels natural.' So that's what I've been doing."
Shifting from the races an athlete had been running his entire high school career (the 1,600 and 3,200) to something totally different (the 400) in the final month of his senior year would be a tough sell for most.
But Altamont's Andrew Sharp said the decision was made easier because of the trust he has in coach Gary Ellis.
"He came out of retirement to coach again I had full faith in him -- he'd won conference championships and taken several runners to state," Sharp said. "I said, 'If you think that's best, then that's what's best.' "