By David Fong
Miami Valley Today
COLUMBUS — There are great throws, and there are Lenea throws.
Great throws are enough to set personal records, break school records and, in most years, win state championships.
But they still aren’t enough to beat Lenea Browder.
Browder, a junior on the Troy High School girls track and field team, again showed she’s in an elite class of one as she unleashed several monster throws to win state titles in both the shot put and the discus Saturday at the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I state track and field championships at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
With the state title she won in the discus last year, she now has three in her career, with the potential to win two more next year before throwing at The Ohio State University. No other team or athlete in Troy’s rich athletic history ever has won more more than one state championship.
“I don’t even know … words can’t even describe how happy I am,” Browder said. “It’s just a dream come true. It feels amazing. It’s indescribable, really. ”
Browder won her second state title of the day in the most dramatic fashion possible.
With a state title in the discus already in her pocket, she unleashed a throw of 45-2 on her first attempt in the shot put, which would stand as the longest mark of the day going into the final round of throws. On her final throw of the day, however, Carrollton senior Alivia Bentley — who will be a future teammate of Browder’s at Ohio State — threw 45-5.5 to pass Browder.
Last year, the exact same scenario played out as Browder took the early lead, only to get surpassed by Bentley on the penultimate throw of the competition. Last year, Browder was unable to respond, allowing Bentley to bring home the state title. This year, however, was different.
With Bentley and her fans cheering in the background, Browder calmly stepped into the ring and heaved a “Lenea Throw” 47-5.25 to earn her second gold medal of the day.
“Going into my last throw was literally a repeat of last year — and it’s literally the same girl as last year, too,” Browder said. “We’re going to be teammates and it’s just like, ‘This cannot happen a second year in a row. Lenea, you have to rise up.’ So all I could do, all I could think when I got in that ring was, ‘Rise up.’”
As soon as the throw left her hand, Browder was confident it was going to be enough to win the championship.
“I told ‘Gibbs’ (Troy throwing coach Aaron Gibbons), ‘Stand where I can see you, so I can look at you while I do this.’ So I did that, and I knew as soon as it got off my hand that was there.”
That she was able to share that special moment with Gibbons seemed perfect, as Browder was quick to give credit to both her throwing coach and head coach Kurt Snyder following her performance Saturday.
“They’re amazing coaches,” she said. “I couldn’t be here without them, at all. They are always there by my side, repeatedly. Every practice, every meet, they always have my back. It’s just amazing how good of coaches they are. They’re amazing.”
Browder’s first state title of the day lacked the suspense of her second, but was no less impressive.
Her second throw of the day, 148-1, would have been enough to win the competition, but it kept several competitors who were between 143-145 feet within striking distance of her. She put them safely in the distance with her fifth throw, which sailed 161-0. On her final throw, she would add an exclamation point with a throw of 162-10, an astounding 17 feet better than the second-place thrower.
“It’s amazing, knowing that I was defending state champion, to come over here and win again,” Browder said. “I don’t think it’s harder the second time, but I feel like there’s a little bit more nerves the second time. When you’re the state champion last year, it’s time to defend your title, so you just have to stay in that mindset.
“After you go to this meet last year, it’s all you can think about when it comes to the season. You’re trying to make your way back. And when you make it back to state, you’re trying to make it to first. That’s all you think about, really.”
Those nerves may have affected Browder early in the competition. Although she threw far enough to win on her second attempt, she knew she was capable of much more and was looking to put an end to the competition and leave everyone else scrambling for second place.
“I felt like I was in my head a little bit too much,” she said. “Literally I had to stop and I was just like, ‘Lenea, you’re in your head too much. You know you’ve got this, so just relax.’ And then I literally just started singing a Drake song. And after that it was good. ‘Take a shot for me.’ I just started saying that in my head and I knew I was relaxed.”
As was the case with the shot put, Browder knew of her final throws were of championship caliber as soon as she threw them.
“Always,” she said. “You know as soon as the disc leaves your hand if it’s a good throw or a bad throw. As soon as it comes off my thumb, I know.”
With three state titles under her belt, what does Browder do for an encore?
“Come back next year and win two more,” she said.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong.
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