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County battle holds state discus supremacy in balance

Staff writer

With throws of 177 and over 170 feet this year, Marion’s defending Class 3A state discus champion Tyler Palic is picking up right where he left off in 2017.

Just like he was last May at the state meet when he separated himself from all classes but one, the Marion senior remains the front-runner to repeat as state champion this year.

But a nearby neighbor is rapidly emerging who may perhaps be the biggest threat to challenge for Palic’s discus title in Hillsboro junior Wes Shaw.

Despite miles separating the two schools, the rivalry today isn’t what it was back in the 1960s, 70s, or even 80s, when it spilled into everything, let alone athletics.

The once heated-rivalry has cooled off with Hillsboro dropping to Class 2A and Marion competing in different conferences.

One place the stiff competition was fully on display was in the late 1960s in track and field throwing events with Marion’s Gary Melcher and Hillsboro’s late Milford Klassen.

Despite Melcher capturing back-to-back state titles in 1968 and 1969 in discus and shot put, Klassen was always in Melcher’s rear-view mirror, as were Solomon’s Marvin Brown, and Southeast of Saline’s Mike Douglass.

“It wasn’t the rivalry for us guys that it was as much as it was between the towns,” Melcher said. “I knew there were three guys in the area that were capable of beating me, but it was more developing respect for each other more than having any rivalries.

“Being in the area, the amount of times we all saw each other during the year had a lot to do with it.”

Fast forward to 2018, numbers don’t lie and Shaw is making a worthy case as one who could jeopardize Palic.

Already establishing himself as arguably the Trojans’ top thrower ever, Shaw has another year to add to his accolades, which already include breaking records set by Klassen.

In their first meeting head-to-head this year April 10 at the Central Kansas League Track meet in Marion, a mere 4 inches were all that separated with Palic besting Shaw 167’03”-166’11”.

The two are likely to lock horns several more times this year, including at May’s regional at Valley Falls.

“I don’t worry about it and I don’t think of it as a rivalry, we’re just close by,” Shaw said. “I’m just working to get better and be the best I can, that’s all I’m concerned with. If he’s (Palic) there at the end, he’s there. I hope to be, too.”

En route to easily capturing the 2017 state discus title with a throw of 175’11”, Palic also broke a 25-year old record set by John Wheeler in 1992, which Wheeler overtook from Melcher.

At Thursday’s Shocker Pre-State meet in Wichita, which showcased the nation’s top high-school discus thrower, Patrick Larrison, Shaw did more record-breaking of his own with a third-place throw of 171’03”.

Breaking his own record for the second time in a week, Shaw’s most recent visit to Wichita brought a throw better than 16 and half feet further than the one last May.

Heading to the University of Kansas, the Moore, Oklahoma senior Larrison’s winning throw of 196’09 was 15 and a half feet better than Winfield’s runner-up Matt Everett.

While the flames have long since died down, the competition for Class 2A discus could be as it was 50 years ago in late May.

Last modified April 19, 2018

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