The big throw in the shot put that Milwaukie's Kaiden Durheim had been waiting for all season finally landed — in bounds.
Durheim unleashed a personal best of 49 feet, 7 3/4 inches on his next-to-last throw of the competition to clinch the boys shot put title Thursday at the Northwest Oregon Conference track and field championships at Rex Putnam High School in Milwaukie.
Durheim knew he had a big throw in him because he'd thrown several in the 50-foot-range that were either a) in practice, b) during warm-ups, or c) too far right, but he had struggled to put everything together in competition.
He put himself in a precarious position Thursday when his first two throws both missed the sector, both wide right.
On his third throw, just to be safe, Durheim abandoned his slide approach and muscled a throw of 42-9 from a standing position, putting him in eighth place and assuring himself a spot in the finals.
"When I just barely made the finals, I took a warm-up throw just to see if I could keep it inside the sector lines and I threw one that was close to 50 feet," Durheim said. "That had me irritated, too, doing that so easily in warm-up, but why can't I keep it in bounds when it counts?"
Mustangs throw coach Roland Aumueller also was irritated and had a few choice words for Durheim.
"Coach Aum was like, 'Yeah, no, it's your senior year, what's the matter? You need to know how to compete,'" Durheim said. "You could say I struggle with that because I get in my head a lot when I'm throwing.
"He said some stuff — it was a pep talk, in a way — and I was like, 'Dang, I need to get going.' He was clearly frustrated because he knows that I can and should do better than what I was doing, and that got me a little fired up."
Going into the finals, Wilsonville's Mike Church led the competition at 46-3 1/2, Parkrose's Ty Delgado was second at 46-3, and Milwaukie's Austin Aune sat third at 46-0 1/2.
Durheim's first throw of the final ended badly when his momentum carried out of the ring for a foul.
On his next throw, everything clicked into place, finally, and Durheim threw 49-7 3/4, breaking his previous personal best of 47-5 1/4 and jumping from eighth to first in the competition.
"When you throw it far, it feels smooth," Durheim said. "There's a famous thrower who writes about 'The Effortless Throw' and says when you throw well, it feels as if you didn't even try. So, yeah, that one felt smooth and as soon as I released it, I was like, 'Yeah, that felt good.' Then you look over and, bam, it hits and you go, 'OK, that's nice.'
"I could finally breath, but I wasn't in a good spot. I was at the bottom of the throwing order, so the leaders all knew what they had to do and they still had two chances to do it."
Aune, the other Milwaukie senior, saw the most significant improvement among the other frontrunners, throwing a personal best 48-5 on his final attempt to climb from fourth to second.
"After seeing Kaiden do well on his second throw of finals, I got all this motivation, wanting to represent Milwaukie at the state meet," Aune said. "It came down to my final throw and I was like, 'It's my senior year, so I might as well give it everything I've got.' And then I PRed by 10 inches."
The 1-2 finish guaranteed the two Mustangs automatic berths into this week's OSAA Class 5A track and field state championships beginning Friday at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.
"It was just a matter of time," said Durheim, who also qualified for state in the discus after finishing second in Friday's finals with a throw of 134-4 on his first attempt.
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