By Jean DePlacido
---- — The 13th of July was a big day in the life of Joe Manson.
Not only was it his 18th birthday, but he was able to celebrate it in style after winning both the shot put and the discus in the Scholastic Division of the Bay State Games.
The former Danvers High star, who is headed to Virginia Commonwealth University on a track scholarship at the end of August, equaled his personal best in the discus with a throw of 160 feet 4 inches (not far from the all-time meet record of 161.9), winning the event for the second straight year. He also won gold in the shot put with a toss of 50 feet 6 inches.
“It was my last time throwing with high school weights and I went there with an open mind,” said Manson, who won the Emerging Elite shot put event at the New Balance Nationals this spring and holds records in both events at Danvers High. “I wanted to have fun, (so) I’m very happy to get gold in both even though it wasn’t my best day in the shot.”
The Salem News’ Spring Track Athlete of the Year, Manson had reached the finals at Regis College by qualifying at the regional event, held at Bishop Fenwick High School in Peabody. He was second in the shot put at Bay States last summer.
Manson received two gold medals and a Bay State Games jacket.
“It was really hot, but I wasn’t really challenged as much as I expected because Evan Dombrowski from St. John’s Prep and another kid from Newton didn’t go. There was a junior from Belmont whose best discus was 166 feet, but he didn’t come close to that at finals,” said Manson. “I think second place in the discus was 130 feet and 46 feet in the shot.”
He had been practicing his throws for the past month, but is now ready to step up to the heavier college weights — 16 pounds (up from 12) in the shot put and 2K (up from 1.61) in the discus — which he has ordered and is ready to begin practicing his standing throws.
“It’s kind of a big difference, but my hands got big this year so it was hard to get a good flip with the 12. There’s a much bigger ball with the 16 weight, which is going to help me,” said Manson. “My VCU coach (Jon Riley) said to just work on the basics to get used to the heavier weight because his style might be different, and he’ll teach me the technique he uses when I get down there next month.”
Orientation at VCU is Aug. 14, and Manson will check into his room four days later. Until then, he has a summer lifting program and running sprints to keep him busy.
“My mother already bought the plane tickets so I can come home when I get a break,” he said. “A lot of my friends are staying around here, but I’m only a 12-hour drive away and an hour plane ride. I will have some meets close to home because VCU competes in Boston, Rhode Island and New York. We’ll also travel to Florida, Tennessee and North Carolina.”