The ambition for Ohio State’s Nick Demaline at the NCAA track and field championships isn’t simply to make the podium in the shot put, but to take another step up. Or two.
“My whole goal is to finish better than I finished last year,” said the senior, who was third in 2017. “So second or first, that’s what I want.”
He spoke after a light workout in Eugene, Oregon, headed toward his competition Wednesday at famed Hayward Field at the University of Oregon.
Joining him the next few days from Ohio State are seniors Cole Gorski in the pole vault and Zack Bazile in the long jump and junior DaJuan Seward in the triple jump, along with the men’s 400 relay (junior Eric Harrison, senior Duan Asemota, senior Drelan Bramwell and Bazile) and 1,600 relay (sophomore Asa Burke, junior Nick Gray, Bramwell and freshman Andre Jeff).
Ohio State women competing are seniors Maggie Barrie in the 400 meters, Christine Frederick in the 10,000 and Chantel Ray in the 100 hurdles, along with the 1,600 relay (senior Karrington Winters, freshman Syaira Richardson, Barrie and sophomore Tamani Wilson).
It was obvious from Demaline’s enthusiasm that he already was pumped.
“You go to nice venues here and there, but there’s no other venue in the United States that’s better than Hayward Field,” Demaline said. “You walk in there, it’s a professional venue.”
It also attracts an educated crowd, he said. And there is the company one keeps at the nationals; it’s the cream of the crop.
“Everyone in there belongs,” said Demaline — a native of Swanton, west of Toledo — who transferred to Ohio State two years ago from Western Kentucky. “So you have to show the crowd what makes you different, because everyone in there is capable. The difference, it starts back months and months ago, even years before this event even happens.
“What did you do to get ready, to improve from day to day? Do you lose sleep over it? Are you obsessed about it? I personally lose sleep over this every night. I think about it. I’m obsessed about it. I think that’s the winning edge. I have sacrificed so much for this sport, so I intend to walk out of there with no regrets. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.”
If only adrenaline could carry the day, but the elite among putters of the 16-pound shot possess a combination of brawn and artistry.
It’s a given that strength and quick-twitch athletic ability are vital. For that, the 6-foot-3, 320-pound Demaline is loaded. His measurables include a 555-pound bench press, a 750-pound squat and a vertical leap of 32 inches. But there’s also the technique, as in the start, the windup, the launch and follow through, all within the 7-foot ring.
“I’m a very linear guy, in the left and right,” Demaline said. “In my throw you go left, you sprint forward, go rotational and vertical through the finish. And if I do that correctly, I can use everything from the motivational standpoint, like if I’m mad enough, if I get through the right positions, I can really go through a ball.”
He wasn’t in the groove enough at the regionals almost two weeks ago in Tampa, Florida, but had already qualified for the NCAA championships with a heave of 66 feet, 1 inch in the Big Ten championships. Last year in the NCAA finals, he fouled on four of six puts yet still finished third with a best of 65-10 ½.
This is his last shot to leave it all in the ring.
“I want to make sure that if I don’t win, that somebody beats me at my absolute best,” he said. “And if I stay in my zone, I feel I have a good chance to walk out a champion.”