Yuma High discus thrower Kody Jose's friends talked him into trying track his senior season.
It's fun, they told him. You get to just hang out off to the side and throw.
Now Jose is going to state.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound senior will compete for the Criminals at the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II State Championship on Wednesday at Mesa Community College after his throw of 141 feet, 9 inches into the wind at the Last Knight meet at Westview High School — the final event of the regular season.
“There were some Division I schools so I didn't expect to be at the top like all the other meets, but it gave me a good look for what the competition would be like at state. So I think I'm ready,” said Jose, who finished in third place at the meet.
Yuma High coach Curt Weber calls Jose an extremely coachable athlete who always looks for ways to improve. The fact that Jose is heading into the state tournament with the eighth best mark at Division II in his first year of the sport amazes the Criminal coach.
“It's just like one of those needles in the haystack,” Weber said. “You throw a handful of darts and see what sticks and he's been one that sticks.”
Also state-bound for the Yuma High boys, senior Chance Hamilton qualified in shot put (47-4 3/4), junior Arturo Vargas in the 400 (51.36 seconds) and David Stiles in the 110-hurdles (15.17), triple jump (40-11) and long jump (20-11). For the Criminal girls, Michelle Watson is participating in triple jump (33-5.5).
The two-day state meet is split up with events on both Wednesday and Saturday.
Jose, who played football and wrestling for the Criminals the past two years, didn't want to specialize in discus initially. He wanted to get really good at shot put, but in preparation for a meet at Brawley, the Criminals needed three spots for discus. After trying it for fun, he was one of the top three on the team and eventually won first place at the meet.
It was the beginning of an undefeated run in the area.
“Since then, I've been increasing in distance and I've just kept winning and winning and winning all the way up to regionals,” Jose said. “And when we went to regionals, I got No. 1 again.”
There is not much limelight being in the discus circle. The spectators in the crowd watch the events on the track — cheering on the sprinters or relay teams. But for Jose, it hasn't been about being in the spotlight.
“I don't mind it as much as other people. I don't really care. I just want to do my throws and make sure I come in on top. If people want to watch me, that's cool, but when I'm in the ring, my mind is totally off and focused on what I have to do.”
The moment Jose realized that making the state meet was a realistic expectation came in the April 11 meet at Lake Havasu. His throw of 139-3 opened the eyes of his coach — which would have given him the 12th best throw in the state at Division II. But nearly three weeks later, Jose broke it with his throw at the Last Knight meet.
“I thought that I wouldn't be good but that I'd at least work at it so that I'm at least OK,” Jose said. “I just came out for fun, whatever. And then out of nowhere, boom! I started winning. It's still fun but I'm in a serious mode trying to get better for state.”
For Weber, Jose's first-year success is especially valuable at a school like Yuma High.
“It's incredibly important,” said the coach. “Here's a guy with no special background or training, but he says, ‘Hey, let's see what I can do.'”