Benefield: Middletown senior throwing everything he's got into discus, shot put

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Bryson Trask, who has been a Mustang all of three months now, already owns the Middletown High School discus and shot put records. And he currently owns — by a long shot — the top discus throw and best shot put mark of the early track and field season of any athlete in the North Coast Section.

He ranks 16th on the all-time Redwood Empire list for shot put and is fourth on the discus list with a personal best of 176 feet, 3 inches that he reached at the Honker Mini Invite in Yuba City on Feb. 23. It’s been 37 years since a Redwood Empire athlete has thrown the discus farther.

Statewide, Trask is ranked sixth in the discus and his put of 55 feet, 5 inches at Santa Rosa High’s Big Cat meet last week ranks him 10th in the state in shot put.

It’s an impressive resume at just the start of his senior campaign, and yet there’s one stat — the ranking of sixth in the state in discus — that is apparently a burr in Trask’s side.

“He doesn’t like being sixth,” Middletown track and field coach Don Cobb said. “We have given him some good grief.”

This is a guy that is eyeing the top spot.

And his national ranking of 13th in discus? That, too, is no good.

“I’m expecting that to go back up,” Trask said.

Trask is not an athlete who lacks confidence in his abilities.

When asked what makes him good, he responded that it was like asking what made Michael Jordan good.

“In the end, it’s always hard work,” he said.

“I won’t tell you he’s humble, but he’s easy to coach,” Cobb said.

And part of that is poking Trask a little.

“We don’t coddle him,” Cobb said. “He runs in the rain with us.”

In addition to ribbing Trask about his current standing among California’s elite throwers, coaches have gone one better — challenging Trask to become the first boy in Lake County history, in any sport, to win an individual state championship.

“We put that out there for Bryson,” Cobb said. “He’s said, ‘I’m all in.’”

Trask makes no bones about wanting to be a state champ.

“Am I going to be that first boy? I don’t know,” he said. “Is it on my radar? Yeah. Is it going to happen? I don’t control that.”

A key indicator of his chances may well be at the massive Arcadia Invitational on April 5-6, where he can expect a seasoned crop of competitors.

“That will be a big debut for a lot of top-level throwers who have been holding back. Their numbers are going to be big,” Trask said.

But Trask’s numbers, especially in the discus, have already been big. The school record in discus before Trask broke it? 142 feet, 9 inches, set in 2009. In shot put? It was 45 feet, 9 inches — set in 2012, according to Cobb. Trask crushed them.

And Cobb said his athlete put up truly massive throws in training.

“I saw 192 (feet) with my own eyes,” Cobb said. “We like to joke that we are going to have to build a bigger area.”

A throw of 192 feet would put Trask at second in the nation and by far the best thrower in California.

Translating a practice heave to a mark made at a meet can be tricky. But according to Cobb, Trask is doing everything in his power to make it happen.

“You can see he’s just not cut from a regular mold,” Cobb said.

“He’s a beast in the weight room,” he said. “He’s a very powerful human being from his core out. He’s very tall, long, very muscular. He’s absolutely going to throw in college.”

Trask, who transferred to Middletown from Lower Lake High School in January after his family moved to Hidden Valley Lake, is on an upward trajectory that makes his goals look realistic.

Consider his growth in the sport since his sophomore campaign, when he finished sixth at the Coastal Mountain Conference meet in shot put with a put of 35 feet, 6 inches. His discus effort of 121 feet, 4 inches earned him a third-place finish.

Last year, he had the third-best put in the Redwood Empire with a heave of 47 feet, 8 inches, which was 12th best in NCS. He bested all Redwood Empire competitors in discus with a throw of 159 feet, 9 inches, which was fourth best in the section.

But his best last year is more than 15 feet shy of what he’s already done this year.

Trask’s embrace of the sport after giving it a try on a whim during his offseason from football has gone hand in hand with his gains in distance.

“I just kind of figured I didn’t have much else to do,” he said of turning up at track practice his freshman year. “It really was totally by chance that I’m here now. This was never planned.

“Let’s just say my freshman year, no one would have seen me and said, ‘He would be good at any of this.’ I was not bottom of the barrel, but it wasn’t much better than that,” he said. “My form was absolutely horrible. I’m about as strong as a 12-year-old girl. There wasn’t much to me.”

He continued to play football through his sophomore year, but dropped it junior season to focus on throwing. He got connected with a throwing program and coach in Concord. He started traveling to meets outside of the high school season.

His dad, Brice, now an assistant coach at Middletown, built a workout station in the family’s garage by drilling plywood into the wall and creating a target that Trask hits with a weighted ball.

“I throw it into the wall for hours,” he said.

“Between junior and senior year he gained 35 pounds,” Brice Trask said of his son. “I have never met a more dedicated kid than this one. At the CrossFit gym he belongs to, they call him a man child.”

Trask now pays attention to his nutrition. He says the only beverage he drinks is water. He’s also keen on examining what he calls his “mental game.”

“My mental game has been the strongest it’s ever been. Period,” he said.

That wasn’t always the way.

“Last year I had way too many mental breakdowns,” he said. “It was like every other day at practice, a hissy fit, because I couldn’t keep my mental game in control.”

What would set him off?

“A bad throw,” he said. “I’m hyper critical of myself, so I hold myself to an extremely high standard.”

Cobb said he’s seen the evolution.

“If something didn’t go his way it would change his day,” he said. “We use the Tom Brady analogy — he doesn’t think about his last interception. He doesn’t let his last throw bother him.

“He doesn’t unravel like that,” he said. “He is able to handle it when a throw doesn’t go well.”

Trask said one of the targets of his mental preparation is being comfortable with each throw. Another is trying to enjoy the moment.

“I need to have fun,” he said.

After all, he has a laundry list of goals he wants to achieve.

“This is it for me,” he said. “This is my life right now.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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