'Awesome' Field puts Shot Put in Bojangles Spotlight

Pennsylvania high school shot putter Jordan Geist already has amassed a bevy of records and honors on his way to signing a scholarship with the University of Arizona.

Nonetheless, Geist admitted that eclipsing the distance reached by former Olympian
Reese Hoffa in this weekend's Bojangles Track & Field Classic would be special.


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"Even on top of that, he'll be the one marking the throw," Geist said.

Geist will be competing in the feature event of the Bojangles Track & Field Classic (formerly Taco Bell Classic)
 Friday night at Spring Valley High School in Columbia. Hoffa, the bronze medalist in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, will serve as honorable meet referee. He has the event's shot put record at 63 feet, 7 inches, set in 1997.

It was an idea conceived a year ago by Spring Valley throws coach Rick Crumpler during a preliminary discussion for the meet, which is
celebrating its 25th anniversary.

"We wanted to do something special," said Crumpler, "and I said, 'There's three juniors that threw 70 feet this year. Why don't we get all them here?' I didn't think it would take off like it did."

Bronson Osborn of Anaheim, Calif., understandably has opted to compete in the Arcadia Invitational outside of Los Angeles, and Adrian Piperi of The Woodlands, Texas, is unable to attend because of "travel and scheduling" issues, Crumpler said.

Still, the idea has taken off like a Geist toss sailing through the air.

The shot put competition will include four athletes who have reached at least 62 feet, led by Geist, whose personal-best of 74 feet, 4.5 inches is the eighth-best ever by a high school thrower.

Michael Carter, the silver medalist in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles before becoming a three-time Super Bowl champion with the San Francisco 49ers, set the national record in the shot put with his throw of 77 feet in 1979. Later that year, Carter surpassed that in a postseason meet with a throw of 81 feet, 3.5 inches.

"A lot of people say that's the best performance all-time by a high school kid," Crumpler said, "but since it
was done at a postseason meet, the (National Federation of State High School Associations) doesn't recognize it.

"We're hoping that the conditions are right and everything works out, so that maybe (Geist) can hit the big throw and set the National Federation record. Well, set it now only to break it again.

"Their season will run longer than ours. They ran indoor until early March, and their outdoor starts later and runs later, so I have no doubt that whatever he does down here, he will surpass before the season's over."

Geist, a senior at Knock High School in Saxonburg, Pa., outside of Pittsburgh, set a national and world indoor record with a 16-pound shot put by reaching 68-4 in December, a throw that qualified him for the IAAF World Championships in London in August.

Geist eclipsed a mark (63-11) established in 2011 by Ryan Crouser, who won gold at the Rio Olympics. Geist's throw would have been the fifth-best in Rio.

Geist said he's looking forward to the "whole experience" in Columbia.

"I've done some things with NSAF (National Scholastics Athletics Foundation), and that's very similar to what we're doing this weekend, and it's a great experience," Geist said. "If it's somebody's first time doing this, they might be a little nervous, but it ends up being a lot of fun, between getting to talk with Reese Hoffa and just getting to know each other, because we'll probably spend a lot of time together down there. The competition sounds like it's going to be awesome."

Geist met Hoffa once previously, a little more than a year ago in Ohio.

"He's one of my idols really, because he brought his own little flair to the sport, and he was a lot of fun to watch," Geist said. "He's probably one of the biggest characters with some of the antics that he did. That's one of the things I try to do. Like I'll wear a Taylor Swift shirt whenever I'm throwing, something that'll calm the nerves for you and for everyone else around you."

Crumpler said officials will stop all other events at
 7 p.m. Friday so that the focus will be on the shot put.

"It's an event that most of the time, people just don't see it," Crumpler said. "A lot of times it's outside the oval, outside the stadium.

"It's the same with the discus. The state record here was set by Griffie Loy of Bishop England (196-6) in 2013 at the state meet at Lower Richland, and they threw on the practice field completely outside the stadium, so hardly anyone saw it."

In anticipation of the top-shelf field of throwers the event has attracted, Crumpler said meet officials have taken steps to accommodate them. They've put in a new ring for the shot put, and they've moved the sector back for the discus.

"I've painted down a 200-foot line for the first time ever in anticipation of these guys throwing the discus
 on Saturday," Crumpler said. "I think all of them are in the 170s or more in the discus as well."

Justin Osking of Florida set the meet record in the discus with his 190-10 in 2011.

"We would be shocked if the shot put record is not set, but we think that the discus record will be broken too," Crumpler said.

He figures the girls discus record has a chance of falling as well. Burke's Raven Saunders, who competed in the Rio Olympics, has that record, having thrown 159-11 in 2014.

Crumpler said Saunders'
mark in the shot put -- 56-8.25, a national record -- is probably safe.

But the distances and times should be interesting to follow, Crumpler said.

Georgia's Carson Dingler, who has the
pole vault record at 13-8.25, will be back. She's already gone 13-11 this season.

More than 25 boys entered in the 800 have run under two minutes, and more than a couple dozen have run under 10 minutes in the 3,200.

"Every event is just absolutely loaded," Crumpler said. "Looking at the entries, it really looked we have the strongest depth that we've ever had. We've always had good performances, but we don't have that quality of depth."