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Coleman's mind games net shot championship

by Mike Nutter

SPORTS WRITER

CHARLESTON -- R.J. Coleman's tactics are as much psychological as physical.

Coleman, the defending Class AAA shot put champion from Robert C. Byrd High School, won his second title in the event Saturday at the state track and field championship at Laidley Field using a strategy suggested by his father.

"He always told me to put the pressure on the other guys early and have them catch up," Coleman said.

The results?

"It usually works. My first throw is usually my best of the meet," Coleman said.

Saturday was no different. Coleman's first throw was an impressive 54-feet-4 -- his personal best. From there he seemed to coast with throws routinely over 50 feet while the rest of the field struggled to hit the mark.

"If you look today, there was a kid who threw a 56 (feet) in warm-ups," Coleman said. "That would've won it. You never really no what to expect. There's a little more pressure when you're the defending champion. You have go a little harder every time."

Coleman said he figured it would take a throw in the low 50s to win Saturday.

Although not taking anything for granted, Coleman said his focus was on throwing 56 feet.

"I was a little disappointed I didn't get 56, but that was my best throw," Coleman said.

The only blemish no an otherwise perfect senior track season was not making the field for the second straight year in the discus, but it's nothing Coleman is

"To be honest, I didn't think I would because I hadn't been throwing well in it all year," Coleman said. "I spent most of my time concentrating on the shot. I'm disappointed that I didn't qualify, but it's nothing to worry about."

Coleman's winning throw Saturday was nearly two full feet longer than last year's winning mark of 52-5. However it will be the final time the hulking 6-6 thrower competes for a while. Coleman has already signed to play football next fall at Ohio State University. Although he said he won't compete next year, he isn't ruling out a return to track and field.

"There's no way I could do both next year," Coleman said. "I'm just concentrating on football. I think in my first year it would just be too much.

"I wouldn't mind giving it a try my sophomore year. I talked to the coaches (at Ohio State), and they said as long as it didn't interfere with me missing practices they didn't have a problem with it. I figure it would give me another year to get stronger."

Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at sports@exponent-telegram.com

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