EHT track athletes throwing their weights around

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A trio of Egg Harbor Township High School student-athletes are going to great lengths to throw a 12-pound hard rubber ball at considerable distances – and making it look easy.

James Plummer, Curtis Fitzpatrick and Kofi Yamoah finished 1-2-3 in the shot put at the New Jersey state Group IV indoor championships on Feb. 16 at the Bennett Athletic Complex in Toms River, helping the EHT boys team win its first-ever state title.

Fitzpatrick also won the 55-meter dash with a time of 6.51 seconds.

All three seniors will next compete for the individual state championships, also known as the Meet of Champions, on Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Bennett Center.

At the state finals, Plummer won the shot put with a throw of 58 feet, 10 inches, tying his personal best. Fitzpatrick was second at 56-11, and Yamoah placed third at 56-9.

Plummer, 18, did not pick up a shot until his sophomore year of high school. He still considers the discus his best event, but has progressed rapidly in the shot put since changing from the glide to the spin approach.

“I’m a little taller, and I can generate more torque with the spin,” said Plummer. “It was not easy. It’s a little harder to control, because of the footwork, but since switching to it I’ve definitely improved a lot.”

Plummer is also an excellent student. He has signed a national letter of intent to continue his track and field career at Clemson University. His brother, Dorian Maness, plays Division I soccer at Central Florida University.

He said he has learned a lot about the shot put from watching teammate Yamoah, who has been competing in the tricky and demanding sport for a bit longer. “Me and Kofi are always trying to throw farther than one another,” Plummer said. “It’s a healthy competition.”

Yamoah, 18, is originally from the West African country of Ghana. His mother was a military police officer in Ghana, and the family moved to Texas when Kofi was six years old. When he first arrived, he only knew the African language called Twi.

He calls those first two transitional years “horrible.”

“I didn’t know how to speak English, I didn’t have any friends,” he said. “But I learned very quickly. I started watching TV, learned some simple phrases. Now you can’t even tell that I’m from Ghana.

“I’m so thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to come here to this country, it’s been a blast,” he said. “There’s so many things you can do, and I’m just so blessed.”

Yamoah played football as a younger child, but switched to track at the suggestion of EHT football coach Tony DeRosa.

“(DeRosa) came up to me and said, ‘I’m going to make you a state champion in track,’ and I said, ‘OK.’

“I came out and did shot put, and I loved it. I’ve stuck with it ever since.”

Yamoah is only 5-foot-7 and has a relatively small build for a shot-putter. “I like the challenge, I want to prove myself,” says Yamoah. “A lot of people see a short guy and say, ‘He can’t throw.’ I want to show that, it doesn’t matter the height, as long as you have the passion for it, and you’re willing to work hard, you can come out here and win. I think that’s one of the reasons that I’m here, I’m still trying to prove myself that I can do it.”

Fitzpatrick prides himself in possessing a unique combination of speed and power, making the smooth transition from weight-throwing to sprints – and winning in both disciplines.

“I believe in myself, that’s all I can do, work hard and run faster,” he said. “It’s an interesting combination, but if you’re a good all-around athlete, you can do it. I’m proud of being an all-around athlete.”

Fitzpatrick also played running back for the EHT football team, but missed most of his senior season with a foot injury.

Like Yamoah, he hopes to keep running track at Rutgers University next year.

EHT has a state champion shot-putter on the girls side as well. EHT's Lola Agabalogun won the Group IV girls shot put with a school-record throw of 40 feet, 7 3/4 and will also move on to the Meet of Champions.

“She’s just scratching the surface,” EHT weights coach Kevin Stetser said of Agabalogun, who was formerly a hurdler. “She’s just now committing to the shot put.”

The top six finishers in each event in each of the state group championships qualified for the Meet of Champions. After that, the boys will move on to the Eastern States Championships on Feb. 25, and the National Indoor Championships the following weekend, both held at the New York City Armory.

"It's remarkable," Stetser said. "They're all great students and great athletes, they work hard and they give back to the community. They like to compete against each other but they like to see each other win. They feed off each other and they get the team concept, which is important. They're amazing."

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