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Track: A shot in the dark becomes a discipline for Indian Rocks Christian thrower

Lineman James Thorpe was recruited by the track coach to throw the shot put and discus for Indian Rocks Christian. In two years, he has made great strides.
Lineman James Thorpe was recruited by the track coach to throw the shot put and discus for Indian Rocks Christian. In two years, he has made great strides.
Published Apr. 7, 2017

Two years ago, Indian Rocks Christian coach Vern Kinsey was combing the hallways for potential track and field athletes when he spotted James Thorpe.

A lineman in football, Thorpe had the right frame (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) to throw the shot put and discus.

"James was tall and athletic, and I knew he would be good at it because he also is a competitor," Kinsey said. "It was something that would be good for him during the offseason with football."

Thorpe was a novice. No one in his family had ever participated in track. He had to learn how to hold the metal contraptions a certain way, how to spin, extend and let them fly.

Kinsey was a novice, too, at least when it came to throwing events. He could only teach Thorpe the basics. To master the technique, Thorpe watched countless YouTube videos and studied the form of the top throwers at each meet.

Despite limited experience, Thorpe propelled both objects with ease. He heaved the shot put more than 48 feet as a sophomore to set the school record.

Thorpe, now a senior, has made quantum leaps in both events.

Last week, he shattered his own school record in the shot put, heaving the 12-pound ball 53 feet, 11 ¼ inches to win the event at 23-team meet the Golden Eagles hosted. Thorpe also set the school record in the discus with a throw of 161-2.

The marks in both events are ranked No. 1 in Class A and qualify for national elite status.

"When I first started, I was just out there to have fun," Thorpe said. "It's still fun, but now I take it even more serious knowing that I can really do something in both events."

Thorpe goes through intense workouts. He lifts weights and does a heavy amount of throws at least twice a week.

"The more you can do in practice, the more tired you get, helps during the meets," Thorpe said. "It makes it easier."

Thorpe got stronger. Still, it was not enough to make significant strides.

That was due in large part to his technique.

Last month, Thorpe got the guidance he needed.

A film crew was on campus to shoot scenes for an upcoming movie. Mark Dvornik, a television executive who was the former president and general manager of WFLA Ch. 8, watched track practice during filming breaks and offered to help Thorpe.

Dvornik was a state champion in Hawaii and has been nationally ranked in the shot put and discus at the masters level.

Under Dvornik's guidance, Thorpe has added several feet to his throws in both events.

"Technique is so important," Thorpe said. "That's been the big difference this season."

Thorpe's performance has gotten the attention of colleges. He already an offer in track from Southern Wesleyan in South Carolina.

"I'm still trying to weigh my options," Thorpe said. "I was so focused on football before but now I have some real opportunities in track. That's something I never would have thought was possible when I first started."

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