Harding’s hurlers

AUSTINTOWN – James Daniels won’t let Mother Nature wreak havoc on his throwing abilities.

Last Wednesday at the Division I Austintown district track and field meet’s discus competition, Daniels began a bout of frequent sneezing. Allergies have affected plenty of people this spring, including the Warren G. Harding thrower.

“Halfway during the school day, my nose started running like crazy,” Daniels said. “I’ve been sneezing all day. It’s probably just today, though.”

He and the other Raiders thrower, Ja’von McCollough-Provitt, both started sneezing. It wasn’t a cold. Just like a yawn, it was the power of suggestion.

Daniels didn’t let Mother Nature’s pollen-induced fury keep him from throwing 161 feet, 1 inch – a personal best and third place. It moved him on to Wednesday’s Division I regional back in Austintown.

“While I was throwing, some snot was flying out my nose when I was spinning around,” Daniels said with a smile on his face. “You could probably see a little bit of snot around the ring.”

While the image might be gross, the results were not. McCollough-Provitt didn’t qualify for regionals in the discus, but he came back with a vengeance in Friday’s district shot put, just like the allergies plaguing Daniels. McCollough-Provitt won the event with 54-9.25, while Daniels was second with 53-11.

“I kind of feel it before it comes off. I kind of feel it in my body that it will be a good throw,” McCollough-Provitt said.

While the two juniors are now regional-level throwers, they are also highly-recruited linemen on the gridiron. Daniels (6-foot-4, 295 pounds) has offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Auburn, Iowa, Michigan State and Wisconsin. McCollough-Provitt (6-3, 315) has drawn interest from Louisville, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Michigan State and West Virginia.

During the spring, the fleet-footed big men find their way around the throwing circle – whipping out a discus or heaving a shot put.

WGH throws coach Christine Wolford said McCollough-Provitt’s progress started showing around last month’s Mehock Relays in Mansfield.

“He started sticking his feet correctly,” she said. “That made all the difference. Both of them have the strength, it’s just the technique. It finally came into place and it’s going now.”

The two showed their prowess during this year’s Trumbull County Meet when, like Friday, they placed in the top two. That time, Daniels won with 54-0.25 and McCollough-Provitt had a 53-11. McCollough-Provitt went 55-4 at the All-American Conference, Red Tier Meet in Canfield, while Daniels’ throw at county was his best.

Wolford said Daniels can pop off a 59-footer in practice, while McCollough-Provitt hovers around 55 to 58. That isn’t their limit, though – she said both have the potential to be state champions.

“Every competition is different,” Wolford said. “You can go out there and throw 62 if it all works, if it all comes together and all of your technique is perfectly in line, you can perfectly throw exactly what you need to throw. Then, you get in there with the adrenaline and the other competitors who are doing just as good, it’s possible.”

Daniels said his teammate’s practice throws have emulated his meet performances.

“I was like, ‘All he needs to do is throw that in a track meet.’ Then, recently, how he’s been throwing at practice is how he’s been throwing at the meet,” Daniels said.

When they both compete in this Friday’s Division I regional shot put, they’ll feel they’ll be able to get in the top four once again and head to the state meet in Columbus.

It would be the first time since Aaron Wilson placed fourth (56-10.25) in the shot put during the Raiders’ 2010 state championship that WGH has sent a thrower south for Division I competition.

Mentor senior John Maurins, who 65-2.25 at the Division I Mentor district and has the state’s best throw of 67-4.25 at this year’s Euclid Relays, will be tough competition for the WGH duo.

“It would be nice for (WGH) coach (Charles) Penny so we can get something other than a runner to go to state,” Daniels said.

There’s no way a little thing like allergies will stand in his way of getting to Columbus, or anything else for that matter.

“When I throw, I have to be serious, but I have to have fun with it,” Daniels said. “Like football, when I’m having fun, that’s when you play at your best. I have to make sure I’m having fun.”