D.J. Duke Repeats As Ohio Division III Shot-Put Champion
Missions accomplished. Well … Almost. River High’s D.J. Duke came here Friday seeking another gold medal in the Division III shot put, but he also came into his final high school meeting seeking a state record, a state meet record and in doing so he wanted to surpass the 70-foot plateau.
The Ashland-bound Duke will certainly take a 75 percent ratio for the day. “I came as close as I possibly could have today,” the focused and driven Duke said.
Duke – who also competed in the discus, but failed to reach the finals – unleashed a state-championship toss of more than 61-feet on his first throw of the competition and then embarked on the quest for the coveted 70-foot mark.
He fell short, but not by much. Duke wrapped up his second straight state championship and achieved all of his other goals when he marked the Jesse Owens dust at an astounding 68-ft-8 1/4, which broke his own record and established a new Division III state meet record, which had stood since 1981.
“I came in with a goal and I gave it my best shot today,” Duke said. “Sixty-eight feet isn’t too bad at all, but it’s not the big 7-0, but I’ll still take it.”
Duke put forth a brilliant series of throws. He broke his state record on his third throw of the competition 67-ft-8. Seeing that the throws carry through and nary another competitor broke the 60-foot mark, Duke was in the clear for the title.
However, after the finalists were announced and warmed up once again, Duke – the last thrower in the finals – fouled on his first attempt before unleashing his mammoth toss to seal the deal.
Duke made the illustrious climb to the top of the podium in the center of the field and heard a bevy of cheery when his winning mark was announced.
“Those cheers sent shivers down my spine,” Duke said. “I was getting cold chills because it felt so great. It’s an amazing feeling that never gets old.”
Duke’s celebrity status at local track meets has been an on-going situation. As the marks and distances added up, the crowds continues to flock to the shot-put circle to watch the two-time first-team all-Ohio football player do what he loves the most.
“I am definitely going to miss (the crowds) next year,” Duke said. “It’s going to feel weird not throwing in high school anymore. I am definitely going to miss all of my friends.”
Duke will be an immediate challenger at Ashland, which is the home to the Division II national shot put champion, so competition won’t be quite as hard to find as it was in the prep ranks.
“There’s going to be competition on my own, let alone everywhere else next year,” Duke said.
Duke – a true student of the shot put – has put in the necessary work to achieve his status as the area’s all-time best shot putter and one of the state’s best ever to go along with the natural ability, which saw him break the coveted 50-foot mark as a mere freshman.
“I put a lot of time into this and it paid off for me,” Duke confessed.
Despite throwing further than 50-feet each of his first two seasons, Duke never placed in the state meet until he busted out a 60-foot throw in the 2008 state finals. Those two trips here served as definite motivation.
“I learned a lot my freshman and sophomore years,” Duke said. “I wish I had done better obviously, but it prepared me and taught me what things I needed to do differently and those paid off.”
Through the ups of the past two years and the disappointments of his first two campaigns, River High head coach Tim Frye was there every step of the way.
“Coach Frye has been like a second father to me,” Duke said. “I’ve spent five years with him now. He gave up his time during the winter months to come train with me after school and took me to every meet this year whether it was indoors or outdoors, and I just don’t know where I’d be at right now if it weren’t for Coach Frye.”
Duke actually owns three state championships now. He won the indoor title this past March in Akron.