Friday Night Sports Hero: Joey Larson

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - Joey Larson started participating in track and field since the seventh grade. He started off as a sprinter as well as a thrower, but quickly realized his strength was not in his running.

"I was fast, but I wasn't very fast, and Reece Warren and Aiden Aresndorf always beat me in a race, so I was like I'm going to quit racing them," Larson said.

Larson's friends encouraged him to join track in the first place, but one of main reasons he joined was his family.

"My dad was a thrower back in high school, he was probably my biggest inspiration," Larson said.

When Larson started out, he didn't have the same success he's had as a junior and senior, but North Platte high school's throwing coach, Steve Miller, knew he had the potential to be great.

"When he first started off, I could see a lot of potential in what he was doing. Even though he's kinda got his own technique, he's been able to figure out how to do it and get some good distances," Miller said.

Greg Caudillo is also a senior thrower on the North Platte team. He and Larson have been teammates since their freshman year. Caudillo said Larson has always pushed him to get better, and Larson pushes himself to get better as well.

"He's obviously always been better than me, but he's always wanted me to push myself harder," Caudillo said, "He's a hard worker. He really enjoys and works hard at what he does, and having the feeling of getting better at the sport."

Miller often sees Larson helping out his his teammates.

"I'll turn around and look and, maybe his wrist might be hurting him, or maybe he might have a bad day, but he'll go over and help out another kid. He'll be over there and helping out our younger kids, helping them with technique, helping them with form, and that's something that I don't even have to say anything to him, he just automatically just goes over and starts helping them out," Miller said.

Larson set a PR in discus at the end of last season, with a distance of 167 feet. This season, Larson already hit 162 feet at the first meet of the season, beating out teammate Elliott Purdy by five feet.

"I was not expecting to throw 162 at the beginning of the year, I was hoping at least 150, then I threw 162 and I was like, wow, that happened," Larson said.

However, Miller was not surprised by Larson's throw. In fact, Miller believes Larson is still going to improve from his best performance so far this season.

"When I see him throwing in practice, I know he can do a lot better than what he's doing in meets, he's been putting too much pressure on himself," Miller said, "The weather's definitely made a big difference, we haven't had a decent meet yet, and when we do have a meet that's halfway nice, it's dead air, so he's not really getting any help with the wind."

Larson isn't 100% sure where his success in throwing comes from, but Miller believes genetics has a lot to do with it.

"I think he said his wingspan is six foot eight, so when you have arms that long, you can really get a lot of pull on the discus and that's where a lot of the distance, a lot of the power comes from," Miller said.

Larson said when he was a freshman, he was grounded a lot because he received bad grades in school, but he improved his grades because of track.

"I always had bad grades, and after I joined track, all my grades started going up because I actually wanted to participate in everything. So, doing track was my inspiration for doing better in school," Larson said.

Larson has reached the state meet each of his first three years of high school, and has improved each year.

"When he first went in as a freshman, our goal was to come in, get a solid mark, because way too many kids go into state as freshmen and just completely try to do it, and it makes a horrible experience, and that's what they carry with them," Miller said.

The North Platte school record in the discus is 177 feet, when asked if he thinks he can break that record, Larson said, "My goal is to break the school record. I'm only ten feet off... I believe I can."

Miller also believes Larson is capable of breaking the record.

"Joey's thrown well over that in practice on numerous occasions, so it's one of those things where once he puts everything together in a meet we'll be able to see something special happen," Miller said, "I think he has a really good chance, everything's there, he just needs to get out of his own way with it."