There is no secret to Derek Howard’s success.
The Heppner senior is one of the top shot put throwers in the state, but there are no long days in the weight room, or special coaches or intensive summer camps.
“I don’t lift weights at all,” Howard said. “I work at a bar lifting freight. I went to one camp for two or three days the summer of my sophomore year. It was fun and I got a little out of it.”
After that, the 6-foot-2, 270-pound Howard puts his faith in Heppner throws coach Al Scott, and he watches top throwers in regards to speed and technique.
“I watch them, then see if I can add that to what I do,” Howard said. “I also watch a lot of Olympians on YouTube.”
There’s no question that Howard’s way of doing things pay dividends.
This season, he hit a personal best 51 feet, 10 inches at the Centennial Invite on April 27, placing fifth. He also has two other meets where he has thrown more than 50 feet.
At the Centennial Invite, Howard was up against the likes of Walla Walla’s Patrick Utschinski, who won the meet with a throw of 59 feet.
He also competed against Utschinski at the Bulldog Invite in Hermiston in March to open the track season. He finished second to the 6-7, 270-pound Utschinski, who has signed to play football at Washington State.
“It has been a good year,” Howard said. “The competition has been great. It’s nice that a kid from a 2A school can go and compete with 5A and 6A kids, and hold his own. It just goes to show I can hold up against the pressure.”
Howard will put his skills to work Friday at the Special District 5 meet in John Day.
Howard’s top mark this season is more than 6 feet farther than Griffin Nash of Union, and nearly 10 feet better than the No. 3 man. The top two will advance to the 2A state championships May 17-18 at Western Oregon University.
“I can’t think about them,” Howard said. “I just go and do my thing.”
Howard also has the top mark in the discus (140-6) heading into district. It is not his favorite event, but he went to state last year and placed 10th.
The state meet would be the end of Howard’s throwing career. He said he has no plans on attending college.
How he stacks up
Howard’s top throw ranks him 15th in Oregon regardless of classification. He is second among 2A throwers, behind two-time state champ Cristian Garcia of Monroe (54-7 1/4).
“I never look past 2A because I don’t want to get myself down,” Howard said. “In 2A, I look at what I can do. Cristian is good and he always competes well at state. He competes well under pressure.”
In the Columbia Basin, Sam Carlson of 1A Helix is Howard’s top competition, unless he goes to a high-profile meet.
Carlson is the top 1A thrower in Oregon with a personal best of 49 feet this spring.
“Sam and I have been good friends since the eighth grade,” Howard said. “He has amazing technique in the discus.”
Howard has placed third at the 2A state meet in the shot put the past two years. He was fifth as a freshman.
This year, a trip to state still will be special for Howard, but said he will miss the mystique of Hayward Field in Eugene, which is in the middle of renovations.
“It just won’t be the same,” he said.