Pennsylvania's Throwing 'Beast:' Team USA Spot Fueled Geist

This is the second of a two-part feature on Jordan Geist, taking you through his prolific high school career, where he set state records and moved well up the national all-time lists. To read part one, click here.


Shots come in all sizes - 8 pound, 4K, and 12 and 16 pound plus many more in between. In the constant whirl of motion that is a run-of-the-mill practice session for Jordan Geist, the 18-year-old sends these steel balls and an assortment of other field implements flying toward the horizon.

Showcasing tremendous versatility and adaptability throughout 2017, Geist was relentless in pursuit of one major shot put prize that had eluded him - a spot on a national team and a Team USA jersey he would call his own.


Breaking ground with every throw

Geist's repeated throws beyond what any other PA prep ever accomplished even once - Ron Semkiw and Ryan Whiting each hit 70 one time - continued to draw crowds several people deep to shot sectors throughout the state.

Since January 2015, Geist has owned the shot put in Pennsylvania and been one of the national leaders if not US#1 outright. He broke and then reset the state indoor and outdoor records a total of 16 times, with the most recent being his final competitive toss with a 12-pounder of 76 feet. 

"We were amazed at how dedicated he was, and once he bought into the plan, we knew big things would come," said his mom, Judy, who also was his event coach at Knoch. "He has exceeded all expectations. Made us rethink and do certain things."

Going back through the 2016 outdoor season, Geist topped 70 with the 12-pounder in 21 consecutive major meets indoors and out. In 16 of those meets, he went 72-feet-plus, a mark that only 10 high schoolers have ever reached in any venue.

Although he added to his PA prep outdoor record just twice this year with the 12-pounder, Geist topped 74 feet in five major meets as he geared up for his post-season schedule. He also set national high school records with the 16-pound (68-4) and 6-kilogram (71-10) indoors this winter, surpassing legends Ryan Crouser and Michael Carter with the 16.

The first of those two records set just days before Christmas changed his and his coaches' approach to the 2017 season.

"The 68-4 was the biggest surprise of his career along with the 61-4 throw in the ninth grade," Mike Hambrick said prior to this year's New Balance indoor meet. "It changed the trajectory of his training year. It caused both growth and problems.

"The other two throws (71-10 with 6K and 76-10.5 with 12 pounds) are directly related to the adjustments made after the 16-pound record throw. It caused us to change from a strength approach to a technical control model. His body is ready for NCAA championship contention. We (had) to gear it back down to the 12-pound level. We have successfully made that technical transition."

While the transitions at times appeared seamless, Geist often was in a constant state of going from one shot weight to another as season-long goals included the 12, 6K and 16.

"It was really frustrating trying to do that," he said of ping-ponging between the shot weights. "The 6k and the 12 pound wasn't that big of a difference, so I didn't mind that as much. It was the 16 that really bothered me because the ball is just so much bigger."

The work all year by Geist and his coaches was not lost in the results or on those in the throws community. The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder finished No. 10 indoors globally with the 16, was No. 2 in the world indoors for U-20 putters with the 6K and is currently ranked the same outdoors for teens with the same shot.

"I think Jordan and his coaches have done a good job with using multiple implements," University of Arizona coach TJ Crater said. "Jordan can adapt very well within a session and between competitions. It is very tough for anyone to make the change between a 6k and 16 pound within two days, especially at the national level. Jordan's strength and technical focus allowed him to not get too hung up on the weight difference, even though it may have affected him."


Post-season goal becomes reality

A year ago, the Knoch grad was a major player in an epic shot put competition at New Balance Nationals Outdoor, eventually finishing second to Adrian Piperi of Texas as the top three - all juniors at the time - topped 71 feet. Numerous lead changes occurred in the finals, with Piperi leapfrogging Geist in round 6 and Jordan falling just 2.5 inches short on the final throw of the afternoon.

Fast forward to less than two weeks ago and Geist was primed for redemption in Greensboro, with a second New Balance Nationals Indoor crown and a third consecutive shot-disc double at Shippensburg to his credit in 2017. He was up to the task and then some at North Carolina A&T, unleashing an outdoor PR and practice throws and sector fouls approaching 80 feet in the shot before demolishing a highly competitive hammer field in the same afternoon. He returned the next day to take second in the discus at NBNO.

"For shot, (I wanted) to get the meet record and PR, for disc (my goal) was to go top 2 and PR, and for hammer, it was just to try to be top six," Geist said of his goals for his final high school-only meet. "I am completely satisfied with how things went.  I was the first athlete to win both the hammer and shot put, which is awesome."

He also finished third a year ago in the Juniors (U-20) shot at the USATF meet, being the odd man out of the three top preps when Team USA spots were determined for the 2016 U-20 world championships. Piperi was the 2016 USATF winner and finished fifth at the world championships, while Californian Bronson Osborn had the meet of his young career to finish third in Poland.

"It's got to be goal No. 1," Geist said prior to this year's USATF meets of being on a national team this year. "The day before (last year's Junior meet), I had a really good 6K practice, throwing around 68 or 69 feet and then the next day I was only throwing 64. I just didn't know myself as an athlete at that point.

"I didn't know what it took for me to peak on a week-to-week basis, and now that I know that, I think I'll be a lot better prepared. Representing your country in this sport is the greatest accomplishment you can ever have, in any sport really. That's definitely goal No. 1."

With much to be gained from last weekend's shot competitions in Sacramento, Geist struggled initially in the 6K as the weight of pre-meet predictions and existing pressures slowed his progress in prelims.

"Having all the expectations for me to make the team, both from myself, from my coaches, from my family, from everybody that has been following me were pretty enormous," Geist said. "The first three throws I knew weren't going to get the job done. I sort of got frustrated, and then they wouldn't let me take any warm-ups in between prelims and finals so that was kind of frustrating.

"The fourth throw wasn't very good, so I was pretty mad up until the sixth throw and I think that may have helped me get a little more oomph on the end of it. But again it was just all nerves until that fifth throw pretty much."

WATCH Geist's career best shot put heave of 76 feet, 10.5 inches:

Stuck in fourth throughout the opening four rounds, Geist knew he could better his position with one trip to the circle but had not been able to put it together. He and four other finalists would improve in the final two rounds, but his 69-4.25 in round 5 was the best of the bunch and the competition, moving him to No. 2 globally in 2017 and US#2 AT for high schoolers.

"It was awesome," he said of climbing to the top and securing a spot on the Junior national team. "It was just such a release. On the fifth throw, I didn't even care if it took the lead or not, I saw that it was far enough to make the team.

"Tons of pressure, monkey off my back, just all gone. I think that this will really open up opportunities for less pressure in future trials, too."

Two days later, Geist was back in the circle, this time with the 16-pounder against the world's finest professionals and top collegians. The field included reigning world champion Joe Kovacs (a Bethlehem Catholic graduate), Olympic champion Crouser and former world indoor champ Whiting, and an 18-year-old looking to unlock the keys to the big ball on just a few days of practice.

Geist's Workout Wednesday at an abandoned warehouse in Saxonburg, Pa.:

"Whenever I threw 68 indoors, it was because I was only throwing the 16 and I was used to throwing it," Geist said. "I threw that for three months, nothing but that for 3 months before that meet. This time I only got to take fulls with it for four practices before I had to throw it in a meet.

"I had one good practice with it, I was around 66-67, which would have been good to place. It was just frustrating not being able to do it in the meet."

While his opener was only 59-10.5, Geist stood 12th as a third of the field had fouls in round 1. He fouled on his second throw as the shot slipped off his hand before recording his best measured effort of the day, a 61-9.5 heave that has been only bettered twice before by a high schooler outdoors.

"I didn't really have any nerves at all," he said of competing with a number of professionals that he has idolized. "The only nerves that I got were once I threw 65 in warm-ups, and I thought I had a chance of making the team. Then I kind of put more pressure on myself than I should have and then it got to the point of where I wasn't comfortable with the 16 anymore.

"Some of the guys tried calming me down, which is really cool. Ryan Whiting, Kurt Roberts and Darrell Hill, they all tried talking me down a little bit. That's really cool just to know that everyone has each other's back in that community. I'll be excited to have another chance at it next year."


Peru and beyond

Armed with a couple of days rest, Geist started preparations Wednesday for something he has never done before - represent his country in competition. Another part of the equation for Geist in the Pan Am Junior Championships on July 21-23 will be somewhat new as well, focusing specifically on a 13.2-pound shot.

"We just need to really hammer the technique, the finish, get really used to throwing 6K, just really get comfortable with it," he said. "Lifting wise, I'm not exactly sure what we're going to be doing yet because we haven't been in this situation before. We will have to consult the lifting gods and see what they come up with."

Geist also noted that any routines he developed in reaching the international stage for the first time might be left on the sidelines as event protocols in Trujillo, Peru, likely will not follow the same path as those in the U.S.

Photo by Bryan Deibel
"You kind of have to be ready for whatever they're going to throw at you," he said of competing internationally. "You never know what their throws customs are in the different countries. I guess just be prepared for anything which I kind of did this weekend, but I think the nerves got the better of me at first. Once I assessed everything that was going on, I was a little more calm, but it's something that I am going to have to learn to do in the next several years."

One who fully anticipates continued success from Geist is another Pennsylvanian who has reached the highest levels around the world.

"The great thing about USA shot put is that in qualifying for the team, you already know you are the best in the world," Whiting said. "In order to qualify for a U.S. team in shot put, you need to be the best in the world.

"It has become a culture, and in wearing that jersey for the USA in the shot put, he needs to realize he is ready. He is by far the best thrower his age in the world, I believe in him and he should, too."


They Said It: What Coaches & Fellow Throwers Have To Say About Jordan Geist

  • "He's redefined the sport around these parts. He's a legend. People will be talking about him 50 years from now, I believe. Not only a great thrower but a great person as well."
  • "The one thing I've really noticed about Jordan is that the way he walks around you would never know it. You would never know that he is the talent and worker that he is. That's just what really has impressed me and taught me a lot about the way I want to carry myself as an athlete. For him, he does his thing and he is very focused, he's confident to a certain point but he is not going to be in your face about it. I've learned a lot personally just from watching Jordan." 
  • "He's one of the guys. He brings life to the event, every event. All of the kids love throwing with him. He's at his own level, but he raises up everyone's competition around him even though they are not going to come close to touching him."
  • "It's amazing to see not only what he's doing now but to see the progression over the last 5-6 years. Even into junior high, the numbers that he was putting up. And you think surely he can't go any farther than where he is right now, and he beats it by feet not by inches. It's remarkable. It's just absolutely remarkable." 
  • "People are always fixated on him when he throws. Sometimes there are even little things you notice that he does, maybe you tweak that and all of a sudden you're throwing a little better. Watching him for yourself is a big deal." 
  • "It's not about beating him. It's about narrowing the gap, and this is what proves to me that track is 100 percent about doing your own personal best. He definitely raises that level and has definitely taught me a lot." 
  • "What he does for my athletes is he inspires them to compete at a level beyond what they have."
  • "When I think about Jordan, I think of possibly the most dominant high school athlete I've ever seen (and I saw LeBron James play at St. Vincent-St. Mary). I think about a highly competitive athlete who expects the best from himself and who trains with his coaches and family to reach to be the best. Not only does he want the best out of himself, but he wants the absolute best out of his competition and in most of his meets those competitors are some of his close friends too. He spends as much time cheering on Alex, Sam, the Landis brothers, and others, as fans do cheering for him and his accomplishments."