AVON LAKE — Justin Wirtz knows he still has work to do.
The Avon Lake junior track thrower recently competed at the New Balance National indoor meet in New York, New York, but with the high school track season now underway, his sights are set on the State tournament.
In his sophomore outdoor season last year, Wirtz made it to the Regional meet after finishing fourth in the shot put (51 feet, 2 inches) and sixth in the discus (144 feet, 7 inches) at District. At Regional, he placed eighth in the shot put, throwing 50 feet, 2½ inches and fell four places and nearly 5 feet behind the eighth-place State qualifier Thomas Supan from Medina.
As an indoor thrower, Wirtz ranked ninth in the state in the 25-pound weight throw and 11th in the shot put. At the National meet, he placed 28th in the weight throw with a distance of 52 feet, 5.5 inches. To qualify for this meet, he recorded a 60 feet, 9 ¼ inches throw at the Ohio indoor State meet.
Wirtz said he only found out he qualified for the meet a week before it was set to take place and said keeping his “head on straight” and having the right mentality kept him prepared. Despite the short notice, he described his first time on the national stage as “a different experience,” and didn’t let the moment get the best of him.
“I wasn’t nervous at all, nothing like that,” he said. “It was really awesome. When you go in there, there’s thousands of athletes just like yourself. You have throwers that are just as good as you that gives you the competition to throw farther. It’s a rush.”
Though he started as an outdoor thrower in seventh grade, following in his father’s footsteps, Wirtz started indoor throwing in high school as a way to appeal to more colleges. To practice his indoor throwing events – shot put, discus, weight throw and hammer throw – outside of outdoor practices, Wirtz works with Avon Lake’s throw’s coach Alex Johnson at T3 Performance in Avon three days a week.
“We don’t really have indoor facilities (at Avon Lake), we have an indoor gymnasium we can use once a week,” Johnson said. “They (T3) have more of the facilities for indoor training. The shot we can throw at the high school, but you need a net to make sure you’re safe throwing the weight.”
Wirtz said that while at first the lack of facilities at Avon Lake was frustrating, it’s something he embraces now.
“It was definitely a little tricky because I didn’t have any place close,” Wirtz said. “It’s just one of those where at first you’re like, ‘Oh, that really sucks,’ but now it’s that next level where you just have to push through and go do it.”
Wirtz kicked off his junior track season last Saturday at the Avon Lake Invitational. In the shot put, he finished second behind last year’s State champion, Rocky River’s Michael Shoaf, with a throw of 46 feet, 5.5 inches. He’ll hope to use that performance to propel him forward the rest of the year.
Although he has two seasons left at Avon Lake to get to the State stage at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at The Ohio State University, neither Wirtz nor Johnson foresee it taking that long.
“He absolutely has the ability to throw at a State level and compete for the top positions at the State level,” Johnson said. “I do believe this year and next year he’s going to be able to put that stuff together in both events and be a State competitor, if not All-State.”
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