FEATURE: Jordan Geist impresses state record holder Semkiw at Baldwin Invite

Ron Semkiw has waited more than 40 years to welcome another athlete worthy of inclusion into western Pennsylvania's most exclusive group - the 70-foot shot put fraternity.

Judging from his initial reaction to the most recent exploits turned in by Knoch's Jordan Geist, Semkiw is a big fan of the future king of the shot put and most likely the next to join the “70" club.

“I didn't know what to expect, that is the first time I've seen him," Semkiw said of watching Geist raise his PR even closer to the magic distance at the recent Baldwin Invitational. “He showed me a lot. I was like choked up. It was really hard to talk.

“I was like getting the adrenaline from before. My eyes started watering, I couldn't even say anything. It just got me so excited because it reminded me of how it was when I was throwing. I'm just glad somebody else can go through that."

Semkiw, a 1972 graduate of Baldwin High School, still leads the all-time shot put list in Pennsylvania with his 70-1.75 throw on May 18, 1972, at the WPIAL championship meet at Shaler. That throw led the nation that year and remains as one of only two 70-footers in state history.

“After I have been around and got to see world record holders, it's always enjoyable to see somebody that's doing something," Semkiw said of the increasingly longer throws registered by the sophomore, who added 2 feet to his lifetime best on May 1 at Baldwin with his 69-1 blast. “When I was throwing, you see kids throw 40 feet and it doesn't do too much. But to see somebody young like Jordan coming up … he's throwing pretty good. He's got a bright future."

Semkiw wasn't the only one to enjoy the first meeting of shot put greats, with the 16-year-old very appreciative of the time he got to spend with the 61-year-old Baldwin resident.

“It was definitely a huge honor to have Mr. Semkiw there," Geist said. “Talking to him really enlightened me because he has been in my shoes as an outstanding thrower. He gave me so much advice about throwing, lifting and competing.

“He also helped me stick by my decision to quit football this year. He said that not quitting was his biggest regret as a thrower."

Semkiw ranked among the best throwers in the U.S. three times in the 1970s and adjusted quickly to the 16-pound implement used on the collegiate and Olympic levels. With his toss of 70-0.5 early in 1974 at the age of 19, he became the first member of the 70-70 club (70-foot throws with both the 12- and 16-pound shots). Only five others have been able to duplicate that feat over the past 40-plus years.

His winning throw of 66-5.5 from the 1972 state meet remained as the PIAA record until Ryan Whiting shattered it in 2005 with a heave of 70-0, making the former Central Dauphin product and future world indoor champion the only other Keystone athlete to hit 70 feet in high school and later one of the 70-70 throwers.

“Just like it was right now," Semkiw, a three-time PIAA champion, said in recalling his best throw in high school. “I just caught it. Twice a year I would have like a perfect throw because my technique was hideous. I did everything right. I threw it, it was just like easy."

Geist is back at Baldwin today for the WPIAL finals and the opportunity to qualify for the state meet in Shippensburg. He was third in the shot last year at 57-7 and claimed fifth in the discus at 169-11, competing as one of a few freshmen in both fields.

Semkiw said he hopes that WPIAL meet officials direct spectator attention to the boys' shot put sector outside the track for a possible glimpse of history, much as they did when he cracked 70 feet at Shaler in 1972. Geist appears to like that idea.

“I love the attention," Geist said of throwing in front of large crowds. “It is like a charger for me. Every set of eyes I have watching me adds a little bit of energy and adrenaline, especially when they are clapping and cheering and really letting their presence be known. That is what I love about competing in western PA. Everyone is very supportive and all want me to succeed."

And Geist's new No. 1 fan will be there cheering him on as Semkiw is taking another day off work to see the sophomore shoot for 70 at his alma mater.