SALEM - This has been a year of determination for Salem's Mike King. In 2009 as a sophomore, King made the trip to regionals in both the shot put and discus. He fell short of earning a trip to Columbus for the state meet, finishing eighth in the discus and 11th in the shot put.
Last season King seem poised to take the next step. He was having a great season until he was forced to the sidelines with a back injury.
"He was having a pretty good year and was really coming on strong towards the end," Salem track coach Todd Huda recalled. "It was pretty unfortunate he had to have the back surgery, because I think he had a real shot at getting to state last year."
King recovered and came back better then ever this spring. He came into the season with his sights set high and then proceeded to go about his business of doing everything he possibly could to make his goals a reality.
"It was tough sitting out last year," King admitted. "This year it was more of me wanting to go out and prove myself. I'd go to a big meet and have a big throw and no one would know who I was. I wanted to go out and make up for lost time."
"Since the beginning of the year he had lofty goals," Huda added. "He would come to practice everyday and work hard to just keep getting better and better. Now he's reaping the benefits. In the shot put he broke the school record, set the county record and then set his sights on getting to state."
Not only did he achieve his goal once, he achieved it twice in the span of three days.
At the Ravenna regional meet, he began his weekend right on Thursday with a second place finish in the discus, punching his ticket for Columbus. He followed that performance up two days later by winning the shot put.
Although he was already assured a trip to state, King wasn't satisfied with just qualifying once.
"It took a little bit of pressure off already qualifying, but shot put was really my top event this year," King said. "I was going to go all out and I wanted to get their doing that too."
If the distances from last weekend are any indication, King has a good shot at a golden ending to the year. Even though it might be unfair to compare different locations, throughout the four regional Division II sights, his throw in the shot was the second best out of anyone in the state.
King would be the first one to tell you, that he wouldn't be able to achieve the success he's had without solid coaching. Huda oversees the team, but the specialists in the throwing events are Bill and Jen Neapolitan. Bill focuses on the shot put, while Jen concentrates on the discus.
"They've both been a great addition to our program," Huda said of the two throwing coaches. "It's nice to have two people back there to help out and it's nice to have someone that can focus in on their one event with them."
The new coaches brought in a new technique for King, and helped get him to the spot he's now at.
"They completely changed me from the glide to the spin technique in the shot," King said. "It added about 10 feet to my distance and I have a better understanding now of how to throw. They're a big part of getting me to where I'm at."
Another added benefit was the fact that up to this point, King hasn't been alone on the trail. All year long, Anthony Shivers has been there with him every step of the way. Although Shivers didn't have the performance he would've liked at regionals (finishing 10th), his presence towards the top of the results all year has been a great benefit and motivation to help King.
"We've made each other better, but there wasn't any kind of competition between the two of us," King said. "We were both happy for each other when we did good and we pushed each other to get better."
Huda saw the benefits each one had on the other.
"It makes it a lot more competitive, even at practice, having the two of them going out there and pushing each other," Huda said. "You know you have to throw your best at every single meet and they both have brought the best out in each other all year long."
King's appearance at the state meet will mark the eighth straight time Salem has had a representative in Columbus. During that stretch he's just the second thrower to make the trip. Jeremiah Folger was the only other one, making it in the shot put in 2006 and 2007 - finishing second in '07.
Although King's going down as a one-man wolf pack this year, Huda still believes the school will be represented well.
"It's a little disappointing only having one person going down this year, but I have every reason to believe he'll still have a really good showing for Salem," Huda said. "He has a great chance to finish really high in both events and could very well bring home a state championship. Even though he's the only one competing, I really think you'll be seeing Salem represented on the medal stand."
"It means I'm going to have to go big," King added. "I'm going to go out and represent the school well."