Given that Kole Weldon finished second in the shot put at last year’s NCAA indoor championships and third at the NCAA outdoor meet, the Texas Tech junior has risen above most of his college-age peers.
That’s why he looks forward to meets such as the Masked Rider Open this weekend. The shot put would be a must-watch event, even if no one showed up besides Weldon and McMurry thrower Paul Davis.
Davis, a Coronado graduate, was the top college shot putter in the nation for much of last spring and finished fifth at the U.S. outdoor championships in June, competing against the nation’s top pros.
Weldon and Davis will compete in the shot put, scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday in the two-day meet at Tech’s Athletic Training Center.
“He’s pretty much the best competition you can get right now in college behind (Ryan) Crouser (from Texas),” Weldon said. “It’s definitely an advantage getting to throw against that guy all the time.”
Crouser threw a Texas record 69 feet, 21/2 inches last year and later won the NCAA outdoor title. Davis threw 69-03/4 last year, made Sports Illustrated’s “Faces In the Crowd” and — based on his performance at the U.S. championships — just missed making Team USA for the IAAF world championships. Weldon’s best was the 65-81/2 he threw to be runnerup at last March’s NCAA indoor.
Weldon estimates he and Davis have gone head to head about 10 times, most recently two weeks ago at the season-opening Tech Open. Weldon won, throwing 64-5, about three feet more than Davis.
“I think that was actually the first time I’ve topped him,” Weldon said. “He always starts slow because he understands the process, so it’s one of those things that it was exciting to be able to come out and beat him the first week, but it’s a marathon. It only counts at the end of the year and in the big meets. That’s my main goal: Beat the guys then.”
Davis and Weldon share remarkable underdog stories, Davis competing with America’s best while at a Division II school and overcoming major knee injuries along the way. Weldon was a high-school football quarterback who came to Tech as a walk-on.
In an event in which the elites often are the size of NFL offensive linemen, the two also are among the smallest: Davis 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, Weldon 6-4 and 275 (up from 260 last year).
So there’s some mutual appreciation.
“Definitely,” Weldon said. “I respect the guy tremendously. I’ve heard nothing but good things about him. So I think both of us, every time we throw, we’re cheering for each other, wanting to see one of us pop a huge throw. That’s great to have. That’s great sportsmanship, and so it’s very enjoyable to compete against him.”
The Masked Rider Open had 810 athletes from 58 men’s and women’s teams entered as of Thursday. Among them are teams from SMU, North Texas and New Mexico State.
The meet continues Saturday.
“I think we’re going to see a lot better marks (for) two reasons,” Tech coach Wes Kittley said. “It’s the third week. There’s also a thousand people coming. It’s a really big meet for us, and so there’s going to be some good competition here.”
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