McMURRAY – Canon-McMillan senior Alec Rideout was disgusted when he did not medal at the PIAA Track & Field Championships in the shot put after fouling on all three attempts last year. Maybe more frustrating was when Rideout did not even qualify in the discus.
In the months following his disappointment in Shippensburg, Rideout set a goal that seemed lofty at the time: breaking the school record in the discus and shot put.
He started by watching tape not only of his throws, but those of various Olympic athletes. The extra preparation was just a minor step in Rideout’s quest for a state title.
While his throw at this year’s Washington-Greene County Coaches Track & Field Championships did not end with a state medal dangling around his neck, his mark of 185-11 in the discus shattered the school record he set earlier in the season by 14 feet. It also obliterated the previous meet record of 166-0, set in 1971 by John Reihner.
“The throw felt great when I released it,” Rideout said. “The height was perfect. I knew it was a record, but I had no clue it was 185. It’s exciting to walk away with some records, but I’ll be satisfied when I have a first place state medal around my neck.”
Rideout’s mark was more than five feet longer than the previous best in Pennsylvania of 180-6 set by David Lucas of Warwick. The national record is held by Mason Finley of Alamosa, Colo. His throw of 236-6 in 2009 broke a record that stood for eight years.
“I wasn’t worried about breaking the record today,” Rideout said. “The goal is to always beat my previous throws. Losing in states was tough. I hate losing, and it changed my whole attitude. That’s when I started putting in even more time with watching video and perfecting my technique.”
Rideout was the last in his group to throw. After the discus left his hand, the other competitors and fans watched in amazement as it sailed high into the air before landing over 40 feet past the throw of second-place finisher Jonah Conroy of Peters Township.
Possibly the only person not surprised by the feat was Joe Grosso, Canon-McMillan’s throwing coach.
“He’s the hardest working athlete I’ve coached in 31 years,” Grosso said. “He’s a beast in the weight room and at the beginning of the season, he came to me and said he was going to break both records. I believed him. I keep waiting for him to reach his plateau, but he keeps moving forward.”
His throw last year of 150-5 put him fifth at the WPIAL Individual Championships, but he easily beat that by more than 35 feet. He also placed second a year ago in the shot put with at throw of 53-6, but beat that Saturday with a toss of 56-8 for a first-place finish.
Rideout did not need to hear his distance because he knew as soon as it left his hand he won the event.
The Big Macs won the Class AAA boys team title at the meet, thanks in part to Rideout’s performance and contributions from two distance runners. Juniors Ethan Linderman and Michael Strusko took first place in three separate events with Linderman getting two first place finishes. Peters Township finished second in Class AAA. Washington claimed the Class AA title and Fort Cherry finished second.
The Indians were paced by senior Mark Minjock, who was Boys Indidivual Track MVP with a first place finish in the 100- and 200-meter dashes with times of 11.52 and 23.82 respectively.
Linderman finished first in the two mile with a personal best of 9:47 and the 1,600 meter with a time of 4:38.27. Strusko, who chose not to run track as a freshman to concentrate on basketball, returned to the sport last year. Working with Linderman paid off Saturday when he took first place in the 800 meters (2:01.88).
“Earning personal records during my freshman and sophomore years was easy,” Linderman said. “It’s when you are an upperclassman that those records are difficult to get because your times should keep improving. I’m feeling really accomplished today.”
Canon-McMillan won the team title despite not entering all its athletes. Some were given days off after a section meet Wednesday against Baldwin and Mt. Lebanon. Big Macs head coach Mike Koot gave his team the option of participating in the meet.
“We have our section meet coming up and that’s where our focus is at the moment,” Koot said. “This is always a nice meet. It lets kids do what they want and allows them to go after the events they’d like. We have a pretty deep team and that has helped. It’s great to see some of the kids really do well.”