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Hummel threw for the win

Posted on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at 5:53 pm

By Ken Jackson
Sports Editor

Hunter Hummel’s decision to move from his native West Virginia to Osceola County two years ago — in the middle of competing in high school track and field — with his mother was a great one for him, and Celebration High School.

The Florida climate enabled him to compete outdoors in the throwing events year-round, and by the end of his second year in town he was the best high-school discus thrower in Class 4A.

News-Gazette Photo/Donald Lamb
Hunter Hummel

Hummel, who already had caught the eye of the track program at the University of South Florida, who inked him to a scholarship at the start of the year, overcame the favorite at the state meet in May and hurled a personal-best throw of 55.31 meters (nearly 181½ feet) to win a gold medal that eluded him the year before.

Hummel, Osceola County’s lone track and field state champion in 2018, is the Osceola News-Gazette Male Track Athlete of the Year.

He said the intense work to be a champion this year began the moment he left Bradenton IMG Academy after the 2017 state meet, where he tossed the discus 163 feet, 9 inches, less than three feet from the gold medal won my Flagler Palm Coast’s Michael Peppin.

“The spark started that day,” Hummel said. “Frankly, I thought as hard as I had worked that year, second place stunk. I had no doubt I could come back and win state my senior year, that I’d put my body through whatever it took.”

He said he got bigger and stronger physically, but it was his mental game that got strongest.

“I practiced thousands of throws, and I came to accept they all wouldn’t be perfect,” he said. “Before, if I had a bad throw, or if it started raining or something, it’d ruin my meet. I did a better job of moving forward.”

Celebration track coach Cliff Branch said that was on display at the University of North Florida on the morning of the 4A throwing finals, despite being seeded No. 2 behind Gainesville Buchholz’s Derek Akey.

“Hunter was feeling good and he was ready to compete. Earlier during our season, I had registered Hunter for the pre state track and field meet at (UNF) to get a feel of the atmosphere and discus area. It seemed to pay off because he felt comfortable and excited about proving everyone that was the best discus thrower in 4A,” Branch said. “Hunter’s first throw was over 50 meters (164 feet) and I said to myself, ‘He’s feeling good today. He has something to prove this year.’

“Going into the state meet as the No. 2 seed really motivated him. Hunter went into the finals in the lead but on the fourth attempt the Akey kid tossed a 52-meter throw to take the lead. On Hunter’s next throw, which really showed me that he really wanted it, he threw his personal best, over 181 feet. He responded to his competition and was the icing on the cake for Hunters’ career at Celebration High School.”

Branch said he’s aware that while you can coach a fine athlete, you let a thrower like Hummel just throw.

“When you have a student athlete of the sport like Hunter who works hard everyday with the passion to win, I just continue to encourage his efforts to be the best he can be at every opportunity, visualize throws before the meet, have a short-term memory, be yourself and compete,” he said.

Hummel rolled through the Orange Belt Conference, District 4A-5 and Region 2 meets in both the discus and shot put to qualify for state in both events, but it wasn’t all just “show up, throw and win.” Following the OBC meet, Hummel adjusted his footwork and throwing motion, and then practiced them in thousands of practice throws.

“I needed that technique to be down for the hardest part of my season, and to be successful when I get to college,” he said. “I will take that technique with me USF, I’ll need the extra power to compete with the bigger college discus.”

Hummel’s back in his native West Virginia, but it’s not the easy livin’ of summertime. He’s carving out time to lift weights and practice throwing outside of his work schedule at a pool at a state park up there. He reports to school in Tampa in less than a month.

“The start of the season feels like years ago now,” Hummel said. “But the state meet feels like it just happened. I’m so glad I could finish the mission and win state.”