By Jean DePlacido
---- — Joe Manson’s 11th place finish in the shot put at the New Balance Indoor Track Nationals this past winter opened the eyes of a lot of colleges.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Danvers High senior carefully weighed all of his options before accepting a substantial track scholarship to Division 1 Virginia Commonwealth University.
After making his official visit to the Richmond-based school two weeks ago, the paperwork arrived at his home on Friday afternoon and Manson signed right away.
“I made up my mind after talking to the coaches when I visited,” said Manson, who had also considered UMass Lowell. “I liked everything about the school. I stayed with two sophomore throwers who were really nice. It’s good to know I’ll have competition from my teammates, because that will push me to try harder.
“They really emphasize throwing at VCU. I talked to one of them whose best with the 12-pound weight had been 48 feet in high school, and now with the 16-pound weight he’s up to 56 feet. That’s one of the reasons why I was looking for the D-1 level because they all work so hard to improve.”
Technique, said Manson, is what it’s all about in any throwing event, since strength can only carry you so far (especially with the spin of doing the shot). Because getting that technique down is critical, he’s looking forward to working with his VCU coaches to improve both that technique and distance of his throws.
A football standout and captain at Danvers High as well, Manson broke his own outdoor shot put record for the Falcons yesterday with a toss of 56 feet 6 inches in a meet against Winthrop. In doing so, he met the national qualifying mark for the spring of 55 feet or better.
“Joe will do well in college,” said Danvers spring track coach (and football coach) Sean Rogers. “He’s very driven when it comes to track. He sets high expectations for himself and will outwork his competition in order to achieve his goals. And when he accomplishes something he enjoys it for a moment, then sets a new goal.”
The Rams compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference under head coach Jon Riley.
Manson plans to study criminal justice in college, with concentration in forensic crime scene investigation and minor in business management.
“I’m so happy to know where I’m going,” said Manson, a gold medalist in the discus at last summer’s Bay State Games. He also took silver in the shot at the event. “It takes a lot of pressure off; now I can enjoy my final month of high school.
“One thing I’m really going to miss is playing football. I picked up track because I played football, but once I started doing well it became a lot of fun.”
Having gone to the high school nationals for the first time over the winter, Manson is looking forward to going again this spring. Having reached his goal in the shot put yesterday, he’d also like to qualify in the discus, where he already holds the DHS record (164 feet). He is a two-time Division 3 state shot put champion indoors (with a personal best throw of 57 feet) and is unbeaten in both the shot and discus outdoors.
Manson, who has set (and broken) his own school records in both events several times, has been working with Randy Bird, former Danvers High coach.
“A lot of kids become complacent after achieving some success, but Joe becomes hungrier. He has had to adjust his goals along the way, which is evident in the number of school records he has broken,” said Rogers.
“The best part of all the records Joe now holds is that he was never competing to break the school records; he was always focused on what the best marks were statewide. He was trying to put his name in the conversation as one of the state’s best throwers, not just in Danvers — and has done just that.
“When people look back no doubt they will be talking about Joe being one of the best track athletes to ever walk through Danvers High School.”
While Manson has never thrown the weight or hammer, he expects to learn in college.
“I’ll still do the shot and discus, but at some point I’m sure I will start doing those as well,” said Manson. “I’ll start training and practicing with the team in the fall, which will give me some time to adjust to school before the indoor season starts in December.
“I am very excited to have this amazing opportunity.”