Jeff Kline is a huge fan of the 60s.
No, not the decade that produced the Beatles and man walking on the Moon.
The 60s he focuses on is the distance that arguably separates the men from the boys in the high school shot put.
"Sixty feet is a huge mark that I have been trying to reach for over a year," the Fleetwood Area senior said of the distance barrier for prep throwers. "I think that it means that I have joined a group of throwers that not everyone can join."
According to the MileSplit database, only 18 Pennsylvania boys have ever hit 60 feet at least once with the indoor shot. Outdoors, about 30 Keystone competitors are members of the 60-foot club.
With the 2019-20 indoor season only a few weeks old, Kline has propelled himself oh so close to 60.
The senior added a half-foot to his lifetime best under cover with a sixth-round heave of 58-6.5 in the Kutztown Maroon & Gold Invitational in his season opener on December 6. Five of his six throws in that meet traveled at least 56-1, with two in the 57s.
Fifteen days later, at Dickinson, he blasted a PR - indoors or out - of 59-6.5 to add to his then-national leader with the 12-pounder.
"I am not that surprised because I have done it before the past two years," Kline said of opening the indoor season with a pair of PRs. "I believe that every meet and mark should be treated the same. I try and stay composed so I can focus on hitting better numbers every time I am competing. I compete against myself versus others, therefore, I always try to improve my past marks. Although this does not always happen, I try."
And his first 60-foot put could put Kline back into the No. 1 spot in the country with the 12-pound ball. New Jersey's John Purvis slipped into the national lead by hitting the distance on the head last Saturday, pushing Kline back a notch for the first time this season.
Closing in on 60 feet and leading the yearly PA list (by more than 3 feet) might have seemed to be out of the question just a few years ago for Kline, who was a 36-foot freshman putter. However, hard work and commitment to his specialty skyrocketed his PR to almost 56 feet at the end of his sophomore year.
"I was able to increase my distance that much in one year because I received specialized training 5-6 days a week for about 2-3 hours a day from Throws University, the throwing part of Garage Strength," the senior explained. "While at the training facility, I am able to train with some of the best throwers and weightlifters in the nation. Also, I have the support necessary to continue my athletic pursuits from my parents, trainers, teammates, coaches and the Fleetwood Area School District administration."
The next big step for Kline came in the final meet of the 2019 season, as the outdoor campaign had seemingly come and gone without an improvement from his indoor efforts. That all changed in the Emerging Elite competition at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor in Greensboro, N.C.
Locked in a battle with Jack Miller of Wilson, Kline notched a pair of then PRs to finish second. The stage was set for this year's fast start.
"It was important to hit my PR because I needed a big mark to be able to set my goals for the off-season," Kline said. "Knowing how far I am able to throw in one season enables my trainers and myself to figure out my programming for the off-season. These results help us plan a lifting program and be able to look at the technical work needed for future improvements."
Kline, who will return to the ring Saturday in the Kutztown Golden Bear Invitational, is looking for success at the indoor and outdoor state meets in 2020. As a junior, Kline was third at Penn State and fourth at Shippensburg in the shot put.
He also is actively looking for a college that he will call home for the next four years or so.
"I am looking for a school that can give me a good education for my major, which is kinesiology," he said. "When it comes to a (track) program, I am looking for something where the team can continuously push me every day and at every meet. I want a coach that wants me on their team, believes in my abilities and will guide me to continue my success in the next level and beyond."