Harvard-bound Dustin Brode always feels the need to ‘step my game up’

Athlete of the Year: Dustin Brode

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Whether he is launching a discus, frisbee, shot put or water balloon from his right arm, Canfield High thrower Dustin Brode is “that guy.”

The youngest of three sons, Brode, 18, said he has always felt like a little bit of an underdog. Which is exactly why he pushes himself to the extreme in everything — and he means everything — he does.

“I always had to try and compete with the older kids, so I needed to step my game up all the time,” he said. “I always knew that I needed to do better just to be on their level so they don’t pick me last or make fun of me.”

So to prevent becoming the last pick on the kickball field, or the laughing stock of the pickup basketball game, Brode became the best — or at least as best he could.

“Everything I do, I’m always trying to be the best,” he said. “I mean, try playing a pickup game of volleyball with me ... I kind of take things to the next level.”

It was that mindset that helped Brode also be “the guy” in high school athletics. The track and field phenom beat out other area athletes whose multi-sport breadth put their names in the argument. But Brode was just too good.

“With all the tremendous athletes we have in the area, it’s just a tremendous honor,” he said. “It’s a great feeling.”

Brode was a member of the Cardinals’ football team for his sophomore and junior years. But he sensed a brighter future in throwing and opted not to play his senior season.

Brode played center, left tackle and middle linebacker during his career with the Cardinals. But the threat of injury, and three months away from shot training made his decision easier.

“The main thing that kept me out of football was that fact that I could get injured, which would be a huge setback if I had to get surgery,” he said. “But also throughout the season your body takes a lot of wear and tear, and you tend to get a lot weaker or even maintain strength.

“But that’s three or four months where I could be building strength,” he said.

Perhaps participating in only one sport — though he also threw during indoor track season — was a disadvantage for Brode. But his casual approach and jaw-dropping results cemented him as the best area athlete. And the best thrower in the state.

Brode said he got his competitive spirit from his father, Gary. His older brothers, Gary Jr., 23 and Nate, 21, were also a big reason why he wanted to be the best. But by his own ability, Brode has become the best shot-put thrower in the state.

At this month’s Division I state championship meet, Brode broke the state record for the shot when he launched his 12-pound orb 71-feet, 7.5 inches. Ever the perfectionist, Brode was satisfied, but not happy, with his toss. He was hoping for around 73 feet.

There are two other numbers that have significance to Brode. The first is 3.8, his grade point average at Canfield. That number has allowed Brode to earn a spot at Harvard University. The other figure is one Brode is chasing.

Sixty one-feet-and some change.

That mark is one Brode will keep in the back of his mind. And he’ll probably circle the first Harvard meet on his calendar. He wants to own the school record in his first appearance.

“It’s maybe 61-feet-3, or something like that,” he said. “And if I don’t [break] it on the first meet, then I will the second meet. But my goal is to do it by the first meet.”

More than already having set out his goals, Brode said he is ready for whatever challenges are put in front of him.

“That’s going to be really different and it should be a lot of fun, especially putting on a different uniform,” he said. “Then to be aware of the big ‘H’ on my chest ... It’s just going to be an even greater sense of pride that I’ll feel.”

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