Williams wins state shot put title

Published 1:11 pm Monday, February 12, 2024

By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Do you want to know what clutch looks like? Here you go:

On Cooper Williams’ first throw in the state indoor track meet, he launched the shot put a personal-record 58 feet, 4 inches. As if that wasn’t enough, on his third throw he heaved it another personal record of 58-06.25.

At the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem on Feb. 9, the Davie junior did what every athlete dreams about – winning a state championship.

“It felt incredible,” Williams said. “I really could not contain my happiness, to be honest. It was really a magical moment.”

Of course, Williams became the state 4-A champion. He’s been doing mind-boggling stuff ever since finishing fifth in the indoor state as a sophomore when his throw was 50-05.25. He’s ranked No. 5 in the country in his junior class and he’s No. 22 overall in the country.

“He’s made a huge leap,” coach Rob Raisbeck said. “I don’t think he threw over 50 last year and now he’s at 58-plus. That’s just a giant improvement. His sport is strength and technique with your footwork. For one thing, he’s much fitter as you would expect as he gets older and more mature. You can get away with being a 10th-grade sprinter and just being naturally fast. But in terms of throwers, so much of it is strength and it takes a while for you to be able to develop that. He’s gotten naturally stronger through a lot of hard work and being in the weight room. He’s also worked on his technique. His spin is good; his footwork is good. If you want to be elite, it’s a 12-month deal. He’ll be out there Christmas Eve in the rain throwing. Here we are two months later and that kind of thing pays off.”

Raisbeck was a little stunned when Williams burst out of the gate with the 58-4.

“Sometimes it takes a throw or two to get loosened up and get the nerves out,” he said. “He came right out with a PR on his first throw. He just set the tone. Nobody was within a foot of him coming into the meet and when he PR’d on that first one, it basically set the standard and he never looked back. He came back on his third throw and improved his PR again.”

The roaring start was exactly what Williams had in mind.

“I’m one of those throwers that normally opens up powerful because my warm-up routine is pretty effective,” he said. “Normally when I throw I’m pretty loose and ready to go. That’s the most excited I’ve been in a long long time.”

The first throw was good enough to do the trick, but remarkably enough, Williams spiked his epic day on the third throw. The runner-up in the 25-man field was Weddington senior Kolton Weaver (56-05.25).

“I’ve gone up eight feet since last year,” Williams said. “I’ve definitely been putting a lot of work in in the weight room and I’ve gone down to the pit a lot. A lot of it came from muscle maturity, and the coaching I’ve had has been incredible. I had the whole summer to work with my older brother and my coach in Charlotte.”

Cooper is following in the footsteps of his oldest brother Spencer, who had a legendary career at Davie. Spencer captured four state titles as a War Eagle (outdoor shot put in 2021, indoor shot put in 2022, outdoor shot put in 2022, outdoor discus in 2022), and now he’s a sophomore thrower at UNC. Interestingly enough, the middle sibling, Palmer, is a freshman punter at Baylor.

Cooper will obviously be among the favorites to win state titles in shot put and discus in the upcoming spring season.

“I’ve just got to keep working and hopefully we’ll do it again in outdoor,” he said.

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Sophomore AJ Sweet entered the state meet on a rampage and appeared destined to place high in the pole vault after finishing seventh as a freshman. With a PR of 14-6, he came in ranked as the No. 6 sophomore in the country, the No. 1 sophomore in the state and the No. 5 overall pole vaulter in the state.

But Sweet had a subpar day and did not place.

“Fourteen feet was third place and he’s been over 14 feet several times, so he could’ve easily been third,” Raisbeck said. “But sometimes it’s just not your day, and unfortunately it was not his day at the state meet. He’s a sophomore, so he’ll come back and be one of the favorites to win next year.”

A week earlier, senior Mason Kuhnemann high jumped 6-0 to qualify for the state.

“He’s basically a 5-8, 5-10 jumper,” Raisbeck said. “It would’ve taken a Herculean effort for him to get up around six feet. You can’t fault Mason at all. It was a really good thing for him just to qualify.”