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Felpel caps career with State title in shot put
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Admittedly, Kyle Felpel held his breath when his friend Kyle Long of Hempfield stepped into the circle for his final throw of the day in the shot put Saturday morning at the PIAA State Track Meet held at Shippensburg University.
"I knew he was going to put one out there," Felpel said.
Long did, but when the throw was finally measured and came up short of the 59-1 1/4 Felpel had posted earlier, the Cocalico senior knew his wait for a State gold medal was finally over.
"When he threw his towel at me, I knew," Felpel said of his buddy. "He did it in a playful manner, but that was pretty close."
Felpel became Cocalico’s first gold medalist at the AAA level and the program’s first since Troy Burkholder took home AA golds in both the javelin and discus back in 1995.
Felpel also went on to capture a silver medal in the javelin, and took a bronze in the discus to cap not only an outstanding weekend but an amazing career.
"It’s great," Felpel said after claiming his gold medal. "Just the feeling you have once you are on the podium and when they announce your name…You feel like a million bucks. You look out there at that big crowd…It’s a great feeling."
Cocalico Head Coach Ron Derr said it was a fitting ending for someone who has been such a major force for his team the last four years.
"It’s a tremendous mixture of feelings from tremendous excitement seeing a Cocalico athlete win a state championship, to a bit of relief," Derr said. "Although I would have to admit that my greatest feeling was just being happy for him. It has been such a tremendous blessing to have a kid like Kyle on the team these past four years. He has achieved some remarkable accomplishments and has always represented himself, his team, and his school with honor and dignity.
"This was a time for him to just shine. (Cocalico throwing coach Scott) Krall had been stressing throughout the week to enjoy this experience and I truly believe he really enjoyed this weekend. As coaches we enjoyed seeing him accomplish one of the few things that he did not have on his resume before this weekend, and that was a state championship."
A year ago at States, Felpel fouled out on all three attempts and didn’t make the finals in the shot. He admitted that last year’s mistakes fueled his fire this year.
"I didn’t want to forget the pain of what it was like," he said. "That moment motivated me over the summer so it wouldn’t happen again."
After getting on the board on his first throw of the day in the preliminary round with a 54-2 1/2, Felpel uncorked what turned out to be the gold medal throw on his next attempt.
That got him into the finals, where he really tried to crank one out there. But he fouled twice and threw 58-4 1/2 on his lone attempt that would count in the finals. Fortunately for him, no one else was able to match or better his 59.
"It was a little rough," Felpel said of the shot competition. "I started off OK. I hit my 59 on my second throw, and then I tried to really go after it and some things broke down with my technique. I had some fouls, toe fouls, but overall I got the gold medal so I’d say it’s a great day."
Felpel, who will head to the University of Alabama in the fall, was asked if winning the gold completed his high school career.
"I get to check this off now," he said. "I got to check a lot of other stuff…The invites, I got a medal at the Penn Relays… I was just missing a state championship gold so I finally get to check that one off my list."
Following the gold medal performance in the shot, Felpel went out and cranked a PR throw of 203-0 in the javelin Saturday afternoon, which would have won him the gold in some years. However, South Park senior Billy Stanley prevented that with a mammoth throw of 246-9 to eclipse not only the State record of 224-2 set by Cedar Crest’s Thomas Jordan in 2003 but the National Federation of High Schools record of 244-2 as well held previously by Sam Crouser of Gresham (Ore.) High School.
Still, it was a great way for Felpel to close out his weekend.
"The timing of the events could not have been any better," Derr said. "He was able to win the state championship in the shot and go into the jav being completely relaxed and really just looking to have fun and throw far. I noticed in his body language that you could see he was excited to throw with every opportunity he had and that was especially evident in jav. He was truly able to just enjoy the competition.
"Kyle does typically not show a great deal of emotions when he competes in the throws but you could see his building excitement in jav with each throw. When he threw 203 and broke into the 200s for the first time ever it was a joy as a coach to see the satisfaction and excitement he was going through during that event."
In Friday’s discus competition, Felpel placed third overall with a throw of 178-2. Long bested his buddy and won the gold with a throw of 189-0, while Bryan Pearson of Bangor Area was second at 179-6.
With the three medals he picked up this weekend, Felpel closed out his career with a total of six state medals.
Derr was asked to sum up Felpel’s career at Cocalico and what he has meant to the program.
"This weekend as I was able to spend some time with Coach Krall, and he said to me, ‘how do you say good-bye to someone who has taken you to places you would have never imagined going?’ For the past three years any time Cocalico boys track and field has been mentioned or thought of in our league I am sure the first face or name anyone brings up is Kyle. He has been the face of our program through this time and he has done a fantastic job of carrying that burden. He is a young man infused with tremendous God-given talent and athleticism, combined with drive and motivation to do well, improve, and a willingness to work very hard and put in the time necessary to be great. I cannot recall ever seeing one individual place so highly in all three of the throws the same year.
"He always had the best interest of the team in mind and I appreciate that all his success and accomplishments have not altered who he is as a person. He has been a great captain of the team the past two years, not just for how far he can throw things, but for how he conducts himself, how he trains, and who he is. I also need to give credit to our throwing coach, Scott Krall. Scott has invested a tremendous amount of time into providing the training and opportunities to help Kyle achieve all he has accomplished. When you talk with either of them individually they give most of the credit to each other. I believe it was just a great pairing that has worked very well together."
In addition to Felpel, fellow Cocalico throwers Spencer Moser and Jhett Janis, both sophomores, also competed in the javelin competition at States. Janis placed 25th with a throw of 153-2 while Moser was 27th with a throw of 141-8.
"It was a fantastic experience for them to just be there this year," Derr said of the pair. "Both were battling some injuries so they did not perform at high levels but you can not simulate the experience of being at the State track and field meet. I hope it’s something they treasure and use as a motivation to improve looking to return next year."