In June of 2011, Matthias Tayala took Ohio by storm when he won Division III state championships in the shot put and discus.
One year later, he is looking to put the hammer down on the rest of the world.
Earlier this month, the 2011 McDonald High graduate competed in the hammer throw at the USA Junior Outdoor Championships in Bloomington, Ind. Thanks to a throw of 68.04 meters on his final attempt, Tayala qualified to compete in the IAAF World Junior Championships, held next month in Barcelona, Spain.
Tayala and the rest of his USA teammates will depart on July 6, and he is scheduled to compete July 13 and 14.
"It's a thrill. It's a complete honor to be able to compete against the best in the world and to represent the United States," Tayala said. "For the past year, I've have a Team USA shirt, but I've been kind of embarrassed to wear it because I wasn't really part of the team.
"Now, I can't wait to get all of my gear and wear it proudly."
Tayala recently completed his freshman year at Kent State, where he is part of the track and field program. He landed a full scholarship with the Golden Flashes thanks to a stellar high school career which earned him Tribune Chronicle Athlete of the Year honors last spring.
Tayala was a first-team All-Ohio selection in basketball, where he scored more than 1,000 points. He earned all-state second-team honors in football, leading the Blue Devils into the playoffs while throwing for more than 1,200 yards and rushing for another 800.
But it was his throws in the discus and shot put which earned Tayala national recognition. By his junior year, he was ranked in the top 10 nationally in both events.
Because the hammer is not offered at the high school level in Ohio track and field, Tayala began practicing the event on his own. By the start of his senior season, he realized the hammer was likely his ticket to college.
"Unlike the other throwing events, you don't have to be super duper big or strong to be really good at the hammer," Tayala said. "It's more about technique and how much time you put into it.
"I caught on pretty quick. Now it's just a matter of working hard and never letting up. I practice as much as possible and I don't take anything for granted."
Tayala's best throw in Bloomington was the second-best of the event. The top two finishers in each event qualified for the World Championships.
He also competed in the discus at nationals, finishing fifth.
Tayala's personal best in the hammer is 70.08, more than two meters better than his qualifying throw.
"I was struggling early on, I wasn't having my best day," Tayala said. "On my last throw, I just tried to do everything I was trained to do technique-wise, and let loose. The throw felt good, but you never really know until you see that thing land."
Tayala's goal at the world competition is to qualify for the finals. More importantly, he hopes that the experience will pay future dividends.
"More importantly than the event itself, I just can't wait to get over there and meet some of the best throwers in the world. I want to learn from them, and learn from the experience as a whole," Tayala said. "I'm still kind of new to throwing the hammer. I still have a lot to learn and I believe I can still achieve some bigger goals."
Such as a 2016 Olympic appearance?
"You never know. That would be the ultimate. It's definitely a dream. But right now I'm concentrating on Barcelona and on my college career. The rest will take care of itself," Tayala said.
Tayala competes in the hammer, shot put and discus at Kent, where he is majoring in sports administration.