Thomas Johnson senior sprints to prepare for field events -- Gazette.Net



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Continuing a tradition he started with his mother during his freshman year, Gov. Thomas Johnson High School senior Joe Kaas buys a cup of coffee on his way to school each Friday — what he calls “a reward for me making it through a long week.”

“It gives me a little jolt,” Kaas said.

On the second Wednesday in February, though, is when he really could have used one.

Kaas competes in the shot put and high jump and because few athletes do both events — his coach recalls only one other in 10 years — they are held at the same time. Typically, Kaas goes back and forth with little issue.

But on this day, at the 3A West Region championship meet, his turns were coming up moments apart. So, Kaas repeatedly sprinted between both areas. He didn't even have time to change shoes — he jumped in his throwing shoes.

It actually worked out fine and Kaas qualified for the state meet in both events. But Kaas' goals are higher than just making the state meet this season.

In last year's state meet, Kaas finished ninth in the high jump (5-foot-8) and second in the shot put (49 feet and 1/2 inch). But all nine athletes who placed ahead of him, including teammate Avon Davey in the shot put, were seniors.

“I try not to get too wrapped up in that idea because every year is different,” Kaas said. “You never know who is going to come out of the woodwork and you really can't rely on next year's results. But I knew that.”

Thomas Johnson coach Robert Wilhelm is taking no chances, either. He has Kaas practicing with the sprinters — not because Kaas will run a short distance race this year, but so he's prepared to sprint between the shot put and high jump if it's necessary again .

For Kaas, any extra moment between events helps, because they requires such different mentalities.

“The high jump, you want to want to be nice and flowing and rhythmic in your approaches and your jumps, while shot put is much more of an aggressive event,” Kaas said. “So, I was going from being completely enraged to needing be elegant to jump over the bar.”

At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Kaas doesn't have the typical frame for a shot putter. But he insists his height more than makes up being a little lankier than most of his competition because a high release point can make all the difference.

“People just don't realize it's an advantage, because my height is definitely a big help for me,” Kaas said. “My frame, by itself, I think is fine.”

In his first year as Thomas Johnson's coach, Wilhelm praised Kaas for his leadership and work ethic. But even before Wilhelm took the job, Kaas wowed him. While assisting Walkersville, he watched Kaas compete in the high jump and Kaas compete in the shot put.

“'Is that a twin brother or something?'” Wilhelm said he thought to himself. “But nope. I was pretty impressed.”

dfeldman@gazette.net