Gera, Norris Toss Big Discus Dual Meet Marks

In track and field, it's all about the numbers.

Feet and inches.

Meters and seconds.

For Hempfield Area's Bella Gera and Daniel Norris, other numbers - pounds and reps - have been just as important to their hot start in 2021 in the discus, where the duo has added yards and not simply feet to their old prep competition bests.

The senior throwers - and Division 1 signees - soared into the U.S. top 10 on Wednesday with PRs that also are the longest throws in the state this year. Gera's throw of 161 feet, 1 inch (US#6) and the 190-2 (US#3) by Norris owe a great deal of those feet and inches to their work in the weight room as track and the rest of the (sports) world was on a pandemic pause.

"They hit the weights, and their legs are even stronger than their upper body," Hempfield throws coach Dave Murray said of Gera, who recently has benched 200 pounds 10 times, and Norris, who has done seven reps of 305 pounds on the bench. "We worked really hard over the summer and fall, in the weight room really, really hard and then just worked hard with technique."

The 2019 season ended for Norris with a ninth at WPIALs with a throw of 132-3, although he had reached the upper 140s in an early season dual in his sophomore year. Gera, on the other hand, finished 10th in the PIAA Class AAA final at Shippensburg with a then big-meet PR of 121-10.

In the winter of 2020, Wake Forest-signee Gera was a consistent performer in the weight throw and became one of the state's best in the shot. Likewise, Norris cracked the top 50 nationally in the weight and added distance in the shot before COVID-19 wiped out the PIAA season and most competitions for the remainder of the year. 

"We worked very hard last year over the summer," Murray said of the work ethic of his newest pair of top throwers. "Daniel threw 172 and Bella 147 (over the summer). It just clicked.

"We had a really good winter in the weight room. We didn't have a state (indoor) meet (this year) so we just crushed through. We just worked right through it. I think it's coming back now, all that extra time. Plus, when you take (a season) away from somebody, they want it so bad."

Murray added that he believed Gera would have been a 145-150 discus performer had the 2020 outdoor season occurred, while Norris would have thrown in the upper 160s to 170s.

While Gera has had longer flights in practice throws of the discus, Murray said "the farthest I've seen (Dan) throw was in that meet ... and it shocked him."

"He's a regular 180 kid in practice," the coach added.

Gera's new PA#1 and second school record so far this young season also checks in at the No. 3 spot on PA MileSplit's all-time state list. Norris, who is headed to Southern Illinois in the fall, added his name to the list of Pennsylvania's 190-foot throwers on the PA list at No. 12. Hempfield's school record belongs to Max Adams, whose 198-3 from 2014 is PA#6 AT.

Although only the best fair throw by each athlete was measured Wednesday, both Norris and Gera had at least one other effort that would be leading the state in the third week of the season, Murray said.

"I kinda knew it was coming," Murray said of Wednesday's big throws in the Spartans' home dual meet against Penn-Trafford. "We lifted Monday and Tuesday. I definitely don't want them to peak now. I keep pushing them in the weight room."