Athlete Spotlight: Justin Welch

Considering he competes in three different events during the course of an outdoor track meet, free time is pretty much non-existence for Justin Welch.

But for the junior from Eastwood High, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s pretty fun because you have something to do the whole meet. You don’t have to sit around that long,” Welch said. “Sometimes it can be hard racing from one event to another, but I’d rather do that because if I’m sitting too long I just keep doing nothing.”

Welch, who excels in the discus, shot put and hammer for the Eagles in the spring months, has been doing nothing but turning heads in the state of Ohio - and beyond - whenever he steps foot in the circle. In a dual meet with Woodmore this past Thursday, Welch improved on his nation’s No. 2 best in the hammer with a distance of 221 feet, 8 inches.  (Watch the Video Here) His work wasn’t done, either. Welch also earned gold in the shot put and the discus, where he had a more than 3-foot PB of 196-10 (US #6).

The multiple-winning performance is common occurrence for Welch, who also starred on the indoor surface where he captured the 25-pound weight at the OATCCC Ohio State Indoor Track and Field Division II/III Championships on March 21 with an exceptional toss of 76-1 (US #3).

Those are some impressive distances for the talented athlete, who also has a 61-2 ¾ best in the shot on his resume. Not bad, considering it wasn’t really his intention to become a weight thrower when he was first introduced to the world of track & field as a seventh-grader.

“It was kind of like the coaches had a practice and everyone ran a 100 and 400 (meter run). The coaches said I wasn’t fast enough to be a sprinter and put me in the shot and discus. I actually wanted to be a pole-vaulter and high-jumper,” said Welch, who achieved a height of 8-6 in the pole vault his initial year. “I didn’t really care (about the coaches’ decision). I was just doing track to keep in shape for the (middle school) football team.”

Welch played football as an offensive and defensive lineman his freshman year at Eastwood, but since then has concentrated his efforts solely on the track.

It’s proving to be the right decision.

As a sophomore last year, Welch captured the 25-pound weight at the OATCCC Ohio State Indoor Track and Field Division II/III Championships to earn his first state crown with a winning heave of 66-8. In his four qualifying throws – he had two fouls – Welch was further than second-place finisher and teammate Alex Hernandez (57-6).

At 6-foot-2, 210-pounds, Welch isn’t built like your typical weight thrower. His slender physique even had his competitors taking a double take at first glance, he recalls. That all changed once he started winning championships.

He also copped the discus at the outdoor state meet last year, uncorking a season-best throw of 188-7. The hammer is not an Ohio High School Athletic Association Track and Field event and thus is not contested at the championship.

“At first I was getting some stares because no one knew what I did at the time,” Welch said. “Once I won the states, it didn’t happen anymore. Now they knew who I was.”

Welch lists last year’s USATF Junior Olympics in Omaha, Neb., as the highlight of his career so far. In the meet, held in July, he earned a national title in the hammer in the Young Men’s Division (age 17-18) with a toss of 194-11 to beat Hernandez second-place effort of 189-01.

“Having my teammate there,” Welch said, “helped me do well.”   

Welch generally practices about three hours a day. He hits the weight room at least three times a week, does plyometrics and also works on his multiple crafts, alternating days with the hammer and the shot/discus in the spring.

Once he graduates next year, Welch is hoping to further his career at the collegiate level. He’s looking at UCLA, Oregon, LSU and Oklahoma as possible choices.

The warmer climate could certainly be one draw to his decision.

“I think it will just help with my training,” he said. “I don’t really like practicing in the rain and cold. When I usually begin the outdoor season (here), there’s rain and sometimes there’s still snow. I just want to experience different types of lifestyles. Weather is a big factor, but I just want to try something different.”


Click here for the video of Justin's 221'8" Hammer Throw