The hammer throw is not an Ohio High School Athletic Association outdoor track and field event, so Alex Hernandez and Justin Welch were out of luck.
However, the two Eastwood track and field standouts, who both throw the shot put and discus for the Eagles, began practicing the hammer throw on their own time and it has paid off.
Since last winter the two went to Bowling Green State University to train with the Falcons’ men’s hammer throw coach.
"We were throwing at Bowling Green with our coach twice a week in the winter and every day in the summer, sometimes twice a day,” said Hernandez, who graduated from Eastwood in June. “We would throw a hammer and alternate shot and discus, just to keep in shape. It helps to do something different, to lessen the monotony of it."
Last month at the USA Track & Field Junior Olympics in Omaha, Neb., Welch and Hernandez took first and second, respectively, in the hammer throw event.
They competed in the Young Men's Division (ages 17-18), with Welch throwing 194 feet, 11 inches and Hernandez throwing 189-01.
Hernandez qualified at an event in Washington Court House, Ohio, two weeks before the meet.
"I threw a lot better in Omaha,” he said. “I threw 31 feet better in Omaha. I was more relaxed and wasn’t as nervous. I was surprised. I knew I could do it. It was pretty surprising I went that far.”
Hernandez (6-3, 245), who will play football and throw the hammer at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh this fall, was a first-team All-Suburban Lakes League center on the Eastwood football team last season.
He said his experience in Omaha was “pretty exciting.”
“It was a really good time,” Hernandez said, adding that he enjoys throwing the hammer more than the shot. Both weights weight 12 pounds.
"The hammer is different and it's fun,” Hernandez said. “I like the feeling of the technique and everything. It’s something new and a challenge – a lot more technical. The shot and discus are kind of sudden (movements), and the hammer takes a while."
Hernandez began throwing the hammer six months ago.
"They started doing the indoor weight for the Ohio Indoor State Meet this year,” he said. “Justin had already been throwing and I went with him. He's been throwing for about a year. I’m getting better. It's closer (competition) than it was, but he's still better."
Welch, 16, who will be a junior at Eastwood this fall, won the Division II state discus title in Columbus in June.
The 6-1, 195-pounder said he was “satisfied” with his performance in Omaha.
“It wasn’t my best,” he said. “I wish I would have thrown farther. It was pretty exciting because I knew there would be some good competition.”
Welch also placed 13th earlier this summer at the Junior Nationals.
“I’ve been throwing the hammer for about a year,” he said. “It looked like it was fun. It’s a lot different. You have to go linear and rotary at the same time. It was pretty tough to learn at first, but it gets easier.”
Kyle Schlumbohm, a freshman at Eastwood, finished 15th in the pole vault in the Intermediate Boys age group (ages 15-16) at the Junior Olympics. He vaulted 11-9.34.
His best vault during the year was 12-0, and he barely missed at 12-3 in Omaha. Schlumbohm was one of the youngest competitors in his age group at the Junior Olympics.