50 feet and hoping for more
After a season-long chase, Luke Vonesh finally hit the 50-foot mark in the shot put last week.
But there's no time for Vonesh, a junior at East Grand Forks Senior High, to enjoy his achievement.
After winning the Section 8A title with a toss of 50 feet, 3/4 of an inch, Vonesh will compete in the Minnesota Class A state track meet, to be held Friday and Saturday in St. Paul.
"I'm not really satisfied,'' Vonesh said. "If I could throw another foot—which I think is possible --- I think that could get me fourth place at state. I've thrown over 50 feet a couple of times in practices.
"That (50 footer) is a huge milestone for any shot putter. It's crazy, knowing that I threw 50.''
Vonesh had been on the cusp of 50 feet for much of the season. In four of the Green Wave's seven outdoor meets prior to the section, he'd exceeded 49 feet. In two other meets, he surpassed 48 feet.
"After the first few meets, I think we saw that (50 feet) was definitely a possibility for Luke,'' Senior High coach Kirk Misialek said. "He was pretty consistently in the high 40s. We thought it was coming.
"Every event in track has a mark, a threshold, that sets kids apart. I think 50 feet is that mark for shot putters. It's awesome for Luke.''
Vonesh was consistent both throwing in the high 40s and improving his distances from one meet to the next. Still, he felt some frustration as the 50-footer eluded him, especially after he had a toss of 49-11 at the true team meet.
"I was getting grief from my friends that I couldn't throw it an inch farther,'' the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Vonesh said. "But it pushed me to work harder.
"You get really amped up competing at the section meet. And I was third at sections last season (one spot shy of qualifying for state). That kind of bummed me.''
Seven other state qualifiers exceeded 50 feet in section meets around the state. Misialek said he anticipates Vonesh has another big throw coming.
"I think Luke will get another one, that he really bombs one out,'' Misialek said. "Luke is a competitive kid. And he knows a 50-footer will probably get him in the finals at state.''
Also having top-nine qualifying performances for the Green Wave are Cole Nowacki, ninth in the 1,600, and a No. 7 seed for the 4x200 relay team of Bryce Kuznia, Casey Kallock, Blake Moen and Felix Zuniga.
Zuniga, Kallock and Kuznia are the lone seniors on the roster for Senior High, which has nine athletes—on two relays and five in open events—competing at state.
"That's quite a few for us,'' Misialek said. "We don't usually get that many to state in the open events.''