Freshman Jordan Geist is staying put in the family business. And he is moving up fast.



Story and Knoch Relays Photos by Phil Grove


For generations, countless Americans have trained in the “family business,” with the goal of one day taking over the grocery store, farm, restaurant or any other enterprise that their parents were operating.

Although he is just 15 years old and a freshman in high school, Jordan Geist is about ready to take over the Butler County family’s business. In his case, the “business” is throwing things … long distances.


Fresh on the heels of a breakout indoor season, the Knoch standout uncorked a state-leading heave in the shot put before April Fool’s Day that, at the time, led Pennsylvania by more than 4 feet and was almost expected by the former school record holder in the event.  (At Friday’s Butler Invitational, Geist went head to head with Hickory’s Luke Lewis, who entered the meet with a shot put season best of 59-3. Geist’s 58-0 was second to Lewis and his PA#3 60-1 in the shot, but the freshman prevailed in a muddy discus throw at 153-10.5 with Lewis fourth.) Indoor champ Max Adams of Hempfield Area trails Geist as PA#2 by just three inches.


“I’m surprised that I made as much of a leap going forward in the shot put as I did,” Geist said of his put of 61 feet, 4 inches that came in at US#11 back on March 29. “I’ve been working hard all offseason, all season, just trying to do as well as I could. I was hoping to get about 58, 57 (that day), but 61, definitely I don’t mind that.”

Now ranked 19th in the nation, Geist casts an even larger shadow over ninth-graders in the U.S. He is No. 1 by over a foot, with California’s Bronson Osborn (60-03.50) the only other performer over 55 feet.


“Usually when you go from indoors to outdoors, you do take a little dip down getting used to the new surfaces throwing outside,” said Geist’s father, Jim, who is a volunteer coach at Knoch and was a four-time All-American in the javelin at Slippery Rock University. “We were surprised he threw that big this early, but we were certainly hoping for it toward the end of the season.”

Indoors this year, Geist did not have a meet below 54-2.5 and topped out when it mattered most at the PTFCA indoor championships at Penn State. The only freshman in the field and one of only two underclassmen, Geist got off to a slow start with an opening-round mark of only 48-8.25.

His next effort of 55-6.5 put him on the awards podium, and his final throw in the prelims catapulted Geist into the No. 2 slot at 58-4.5. Although he did not improve on his indoor PR in the finals, the freshman still registered an additional pair of marks – 56-2.5 and 55-0 – that would have been good for the top eight overall as he finished as the state runner-up.

“I was ranked fifth going into it at 56 feet, but it was the same thing as (with the 61-4), just felt right coming through, got 58, took second,” Geist said. “Very happy.”


Big Throw … Very Early

The person closest to the 12-pound ball when Geist’s second throw finally crashed to earth at the inaugural Knoch Relays was a member of the local throwing community who knew that his days as a school record holder were numbered.

“I was honored,” family friend Mike Crouch said of officiating the shot put that day and being able to place the tape measure where Geist’s heave landed. “I can’t put it into words.

“I’ve known Jordan his whole life. I’ve been kind of looking forward to this for a couple of years now.  I knew it was coming up. As a ninth-grader to do that, that’s just incredible.”

Crouch had held Knoch’s record of 54-9.5 in the shot since the PIAA meet at Shippensburg in 1984. His medal-winning effort that day had stood the test of time until Geist began knocking on the record book door with increasingly longer throws under cover this winter.

“It’s impressive,” Crouch said of the new record. “He got the juices flowing I think.”

The performance last month has many looking ahead to the end of the outdoor season and what warmer weather and continued hard work might bring.

“We knew he would hit 60 feet this year, but I never thought it would be this early,” said his mom, Judy, who is the head girls’ coach at Knoch, the school’s throws coach and also a two-time All-American in the shot put at Slippery Rock. “As he keeps working out and getting stronger and doing what he’s doing, who knows how far he’ll throw this year. He could be a state champion as a freshman, which would be pretty impressive.”

In less than a year, Geist has pushed his PR with the 12-pound ball to almost what it was a year ago with the much lighter junior high implements. At the Mars Junior High Invitational last April 25, Geist blasted the 8-pound shot out 61-5.5. He also threw 188-11.5 in 2013 with the junior high discus.

His mother attributes part of her son’s success to his knowledge of the shot put.

“He studies his event more than any kid I know,” Judy Geist said of her son, who also has season bests of 163-2 in the discus and 150-3 in the javelin. “It’s surprising to us to see how mature he is and how advanced he is at his age.

“He knows what he needs to do. He’ll watch video. He is probably smarter than I am anymore.”

Geist’s father believes that his son’s above-average  learning curve as a ninth-grader also is a result of his experience last summer with the high school implements as he moved up in age groups in summer competition, leaving the lighter junior high shot and discus behind for good.

“He threw it all summer long to get used to it now,” he said of the 12-pound and 1.6-kilogram implements.

Geist also believes that his son, who is 6-1 and about 215, will continue to grow in size and in the throws.

“He’s not there yet,” he said of the stature of many top throwers. “That’s the part I think he has the most room to grow, just overall strength. He’s been very agile, very explosive and has very good technique. That’s what allows him to compete against the bigger kids.”


Following in his parents’ footsteps

Geist was introduced to the throws (minus the javelin) in 2007 at the age of 8 as a possible career in baseball looked like it might not be in the cards. By then, he was already familiar with his parents’ success in throwing objects great distances.

“In our basement, they have entire walls covered with high school and college memorabilia, all these pictures, medals, ribbons everything you can think of,” he said of his parents’ throwing careers. “Very successful track and field athletes through our family.

“It definitely was in the genes. Me playing baseball … well, I’m never going to do that. But I got really bad at baseball, so I thought I might as well try (the throws).”

Judy Geist said her son has adopted the events as his own with a desire to improve and work hard.

“We have a throwing circle at home,” she said. “We have actually three so he throws in the winter in the garage, works on footwork all year long. He’s a hard worker. He doesn’t stop throwing all year.

“Two weeks before the season, we have kids come and they start throwing or running and they’re sore. He throws all year, and it shows. It really does. He does work hard, and we’re very proud of him.”

Indoor State Champs photo by Don Rich

Geist said the runner-up finish at the state indoor meet has been very important to what he has accomplished thus far during the 2014 outdoor season.

“It was a very good sort of ego boost,” said the freshman, who met event idol and world champion Ryan Whiting at Penn State. “It got me thinking that I can be higher than what I was thinking. I was thinking 60 feet at the end of the (outdoor) season. Me throwing 58, I thought I can get to 65 this season.

“The sky is the limit right now. My age, my size … right now, I am one of the smaller (top) throwers in the country. I’m just trying to be more technical, quicker, more explosive at the end than everyone else.”