SALEM-After competing in the shadow of a state champion, Elijah Bricker finally has the stage to himself.
The Salem discus thrower watched for the last two years as former teammate Anthony Shivers won back-to-back state discus titles and set a Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium record with a toss of 203-feet-2 last season.
"He was amazing to watch every day," Bricker said. "To have the chance to learn from one of the best throwers in the state helped me a lot."
With Shivers now graduated and competing for Notre Dame, Bricker is applying the lessons he learned. The senior will compete in the Division II state meet at 9 a.m. Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
"I was always behind Anthony the last couple of years," Bricker said. "It feels good to be out up front and finally make it to state."
Going into his final throw at last week's Austintown regional, Bricker felt he was right on the bubble for a state berth. With that in mind, he unleashed a personal best throw of 153-6, placing third right behind Jake Zinni from West Branch and Lucas Cooper from United.
"At the start of the year I knew I would be in the running for state," Bricker said. "To go out there and PR (personal record) on my final throw is all I could ask for."
Bricker finished sixth in the discus at regionals last year, but closely observed Shivers and entered this season confident it was his year.
"I watched Anthony a lot last season. I asked him a lot of questions," Bricker said. "His footwork and explosives were two things I wanted to learn. Anything I wanted to ask him about he would help with."
Bricker and Shivers have kept in touch during the past year. Shivers was among those who congratulated him after the regional meet.
"We talk every once in a while," Bricker said. "Whenever he's back from college I like to ask him how he's throwing. He was really excited for me when I made it to state."
Bricker-who qualified 13th out of 16 throwers-recognizes he is not in the rarefied air of his predecessor, but wants to end his career soaking up all of the experience in Columbus.
"I was hoping to come out stronger this year, but I still made it to state which was my goal," Bricker said. "I've never been down there, but I'm looking forward to seeing the big crowds. If I PR again and place I'll be satisfied."