In the rings of a track meet, athletes lay in relative anonymity.
Spinning and throwing are featured in the shot put and discus as the biggest of athletes go to work.
The effort put in can be, and most times is, overshadowed by the glitz and glamour of the sprints and blazing fast relays. But for one Fallon athlete, the ring is a natural fit.
Greenwave sophomore T.J. Mauga is more than holding his own this season and is rapidly becoming one of the best discus throwers in the state.
He put his talent on display Saturday at the 43rd annual Fallon Elks Invitational, where it would be easy to overlook the throwing rings as numerous track records were broken.
But for Mauga, it was another day of steadily improving technique and working toward a state title.
“Every week he has a little more and adds a little more pressure,” Fallon boys coach Steve Heck said. “He’s got everyone worried and he’s going to pop a big one in the disc.”
Galena and McQueen showed its might, Fallon star Nathan Heck picked up the Greenwave’s lone win, while Mauga added a pair of top five finishes.
McQueen, thanks to several record-breaking efforts, won the boys title with 145 points followed by Reed (100), Dayton (95), Galena (58) and Fallon (48).
Yerington won the small school title with 21 points, while Pershing County was second with 19.
“I think it’s the best overall meet we’ve ever had,” Steve Heck said. “The volunteers were awesome.”
Mauga, meanwhile, ranks seventh in the state, regardless of classification, in the discus. His distance in the shot put is also gaining steam, but the discus is where he thrives.
His best throw last year came in at 146 feet, 6 inches on April 11, but then did not clear 141 again.
To begin this season, though, he came out with a throw of 141-3 and reached a personal best of 152-2 on March 21 at the Northwest Invitational at McQueen.
On Saturday, Mauga again hit the 150-foot mark with a toss of 150-11 to finish second.
“It just started clicking,” he added. “I started in junior high and I really liked it, plus having my older siblings also throwing has helped.”
As for the shot put, his best throw last year was 42-6.5 in the Northern Division I-A regional meet.
This season, Mauga has only one finish less than 42-11, which came in the first meet of the year. Since then, he has consistently been over 42 including Saturday’s throw of 44-0.75 for fifth place and a personal best of 44-3 at Fernley on March 14.
Mauga, though, is still chasing Dayton’s Zach Hawley, who took second at state last year and won the discus Saturday with a throw of 162-2.
“I think I’m more focused on my technique (this year),” Mauga said. “Coach (Bert) Serrano has been helping me the entire year and having Zach … that gives me the extra motivation to beat him.”
Nathan Heck, however, added another win in the pole vault clearing 15 feet to get past Wooster’s Zachary Arbogast, who was second at 14-6.
Heck, though, nearly cleared 15-3.25, but was unable to get cleanly over the bar. On his second attempt, Heck rose over the bar, but clipped it on the way down in his best vault at the height.
Despite missing the school record, Heck had another solid all-around day. He finished fourth in the 100 (11.32) and 200 (23.21) to help lead the Wave.
“He’s frustrated because he wants to go higher,” Steve Heck said. “He’s at that phase where he’s working on things and when he works those things out … he’s going to pop 6 inches even a foot.”
Fallon’s Tristen Thomson, meanwhile, finished 12th in 1,600 but was boxed in early in the race and struggled to navigate out of the pack and break free. He finished with a mark of 4:46.
Thomson’s day started with an ominous drop in the 4×800, when his baton was knocked out of his hand at the start, leaving the Wave junior scrambling to pick it up as the pack darted out.
When Thomson grabbed the baton, his race strategy was out the window and it became a sprint to push to the top of the pack. He was able to pass most of the field to put Fallon back in position to finish in the top six.
Ethan Smith, Sean Cordes and Trevor Davis were able to hold pace as Fallon placed sixth at 8:52.94.
“I’m proud of that whole team,” Heck said. “They battled back to finish strong. To come out with points after that happens says a lot.”
Thomson added an eighth-place finish in the 800 (2:07.9), while Cameron Kissick was ninth (2:08.4). In the 3,200, Davis Koenig took 10th with a mark of 10:48.
Fallon’s 4×400 realy team of Nathan Heck, Thomson, Jordan Schultz and Charles Fulks had one of its best runs of the season as the quartet took fourth with a time of 3:37.48.
The 4×200 squad of Schultz, Drake Copley, Cole Service and Fulks was seventh (1:37.92). Fulks was also sixth in the 400 (53.33) and seventh in the 200 (23.44), while Heck was fourth in the 200 (23.21).
“We were real pleased with that,” Steve Heck said of Fulks’ 400.
The meet, though, began with a bang thanks to Galena.
The Grizzlies’ 4×800 boys relay team opened the meet with a blazing time of 8 minutes, 5.84 seconds to set a new meet and stadium record. They bested the old record by 11.16 seconds set by Carson in 1997.
After the Grizzlies’ sizzling run, McQueen showed why it’s the defending Division I state champions.
Perhaps the best individual performance of the day went to McQueen’s Kai Benedict, who set a meet record in the 1,600 (1 mile) with a time of 4:17.27 shattering the old record by six seconds set by South Tahoe’s Hudson Wilvers in 2003. He and teammate Connor Ross, who placed second at 4:30.4, pulled away from the field on the third lap, while Benedict showed his dominance in the final lap as he made a valiant effort to run under 4:20.
Benedict nearly broke the 3,200 record, but came up in short in a run of 9:33.14.
Ross also set a meet and stadium record in the 800 with a mark of 1:57.2, which topped the old time of 1:58.1 set in 1997 by Elko’s Aaron Briggs.
McQueen, though, wasn’t done setting records. The Lancers’ 4×400 team came in at 3:28.16 taking down Reed’s meet record of 3:28.6 in 1994 and Carson’s stadium record of 3:28.79 in 2002.
“We had perfect weather and a perfect level of competition,” Heck added. “The mile was incredible. You don’t see that very often.”
Benedict was named the meet’s MVP with his record-breaking run in the 1,600-meter race and nearly breaking the 3,200 record.
Also in consideration for MVP were Reed’s Eric Espiritu for wins in the 100 (10.94) and 200 (22.46); Dayton’s Benji Ply for winning the 110 hurdles (15.36) and high jump (6-6); and Dayton thrower Zach Hawley, who won the shot put (56-8.5) and discus 162-2).