Summit High senior is 1st Tigers thrower to place at state in decades
Corey Johnson takes 8th in discus at JeffCo Stadium in Lakewood
LAKEWOOD — Through the past 18 uncertain months, Corey Johnson maintained a goal of making the state discus final. Johnson achieved that reality Thursday, June 24, as the first discus thrower in Summit High School head coach Kristy McClain’s 18-year tenure to qualify for the Colorado High School Activities Association 4A state meet and then make the podium.
At Jefferson County Stadium, Johnson earned an eighth-place mark of 138 feet, 4 inches.
“For an athlete to get to the state meet is a monumental achievement, but then to also place at the state meet — he’s maybe just the fifth Summit Tiger I can think that has placed in all of my disciplines in all of my years,” McClain said.
To realize the goal, Johnson had to go out of his way to manifest a situation in which he could learn and improve at a sport foreign to most in the Rocky Mountains above 9,000 feet. In most spring seasons, athletes can’t even use the discus circle at Summit High because snow covers it.
So Johnson constructed his own discus-throwing setup at his family’s home north of Silverthorne. In recent years, Johnson took it upon himself to open up the barn door and sling discs out into the driveway on the family ranch near Ute Pass Road.
Johnson was a sophomore when he built the homemade discus field. But when winter came, he found it too hard to fetch the discs from snowbanks. So he used lighter, disc-golf-like discs to practice his form throwing against a wall.
This winter, with a lack of snow, Johnson was able to get out and practice the discus for two months before the Tigers’ delayed season started in May.
At home, up in ranch country where there is no cell service, the sinewy senior truly became a student of the event. He blossomed into the school’s best thrower in recent history. That came after Johnson first chose to take up throwing events merely because, as a younger kid, he didn’t want to have to run around the track.
“He studies the science behind it,” McClain said. “He’s looking at the mechanics of the discus, the shot — he became an expert of the sport. We’d love for him to come back and coach.”
McClain is far from kidding when she says that. She and Tigers assistant coach Mike Hagen — an experienced track and running coach in his own right — have leaned on Johnson as a pseudo player-coach this season. Because Hagen has to devote half of his time to Tigers hurdlers, Johnson is often left with the rest of Summit’s throwers coaching them at the caliber an adult could provide.
Johnson has fallen so in love with track and field throwing — namely the discus but also the shot put — that he modeled his throwing form after Wyoming All-American Colton Paller. Hagen commended Johnson’s ability to gain tension on each rotation until the very last moment when throwing the disc.
“He is one of the best in the country right now, and I love his technique,” Johnson said about Paller. “I try to copy his technique in everything for discus. He’s so loose. He’s built like me — skinnier not muscular. And he has long arms and just a really relaxed style I like. Similar to how I throw. I look at his cues.”
Johnson may run into Paller, a 2021 Cowboy graduate, at the University of Wyoming because that’s where Johnson will go to college. Johnson said he is undecided on whether he will try to walk-on to the Cowboys track and field team, though he is excited to study construction management and to one day start a residential construction company in Summit County.
But for now, at Thursday’s state final, Johnson fought through some early nerves to qualify from the original group of 18 to the 10-man final. And it was the experience he dreamed of at home on the family farm during all those solitary days last spring without a 2020 season due to COVID-19.
“And he’s one of the kindest and most polite athletes I’ve ever coached,” McClain said. “He’s the whole deal where he just really put his heart into it not only for himself but for his teammates.”
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