By Joe Scalzo
Springfield senior Stephen Lyons started the biggest competition of his high school career with an “Oh crap.”
He ended it with a slow clap.
On his first throw of Friday’s state track and field meet, Lyons erased the memories of a disappointing 2011 and put his name into the history books — literally — as the Division III state shot put champion.
Only he didn’t know it yet.
“I was like, ‘I’m not sure about that one,’” said Lyons, when asked if he felt that throw would hold up through the finals. “I felt if I threw farther than that, it would.”
Lyons had the best throw following the preliminaries, then topped himself with his last two throws. With the state crown secured just before his last throw, the crowd started a slow clap and Lyons used his adrenaline to uncork a 59-101/2 throw and win by more than 51/2 feet.
“My goal was 60 [feet] but, I mean, heck — first place,” he said. “That’s what I wanted the whole time.
“It feels amazing.”
Lyons became the first Tiger to win a state title since his cousin, Andrea Lyons, won the long jump crown two years ago. He also matched his trainer, former Springfield standout Nick Panezich, who won state shot put titles in 2004 and 2005.
“They were both exceptional kids in their own way as far as throwers and we were blessed to have both of them,” said Springfield coach Don Evans. “They were both lifelong throwers and they both had a great desire to win.
“When you put those kind of things together, and you get good coaching, you’re going to win. And that’s exactly what those guys did.”
Lyons entered the 2011 meet with the state’s best qualifying throw, only to watch McDonald’s Matthias Tayala pick his pocket with a career-best throw of 64-8. Despite the bad memory, Lyons entered Friday’s competition (where he again had the top throw) loose and confident. For the most part.
“I honestly wasn’t that nervous until we started coming up here and I was like, ‘Oh crap, I’m on my way here and it’s my last day to throw in high school,’” he said. “But then the adrenaline came to me.”
“Leading up to the meet, all we talked about was the need to stay focused,” said Tigers throwing coach Jim Schuler. “The biggest thing was getting that first throw out and leaving it up to him and not letting anyone else take this meet from him.”
No one did.
A few hours later, Lyons capped his career with a fifth-place finish in the discus — the fifth All-Ohio finish in his career.
And when the Eastern Michigan recruit was asked about competing as a Tiger for the last time, he chuckled and said, “It’s weird. It’s really weird, actually.
“It’s a good ending, though.”