By Brad Fauber
WOODSTOCK -- Utilizing the proper technique has always been the main focus for Central senior Travis Cooper when competing in the discus event during the spring track and field season. Cooper admits he's usually not the strongest competitor to step into the circle at any given meet, but what he lacks in sheer power he tries to make up for with sound mechanics.
Cooper's work to perfect that technique began during his first season of track and field during his eighth-grade year, and he said it took him a few seasons to finally put everything together.
"A successful discus throw, it takes about three years. It takes hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of throws," Cooper said on Wednesday. "There's a lot of form in it, because I'm obviously not the most powerful kid around. There's probably about 75 things you have to do right, and if you do one of them wrong it looks like you did all of them wrong.
"I've been steady since my sophomore year because my strength isn't going up that much. So I just try to keep my technique as good as it gets and stay steady."
When Cooper nailed down his mechanics during his sophomore season, the results were astounding. He set a new Central record that season with a throw of 151 feet, 10 inches.
Cooper suffered what he called a "nasty" hamstring injury midway through last season that limited him somewhat in the discus and prevented him from competing in the jumping events, but he was still solid enough to place sixth at the Group A state meet as a junior.
But Cooper came back this season with a stronger sense of purpose, said Falcons throws coach Mike Yew.
"I think this year he has really picked it up a notch," Yew said. "I think Travis will agree that he didn't have quite as strong a junior year as he would've liked, especially coming off a sophomore year where he broke the school record. This year he's been more focused and has worked harder and really dedicated himself more to competing in the discus and getting it done throughout the year."
Cooper has really settled into a groove over the last four weeks, and he continued his strong postseason performance last Wednesday at the Region 3A East meet at Culpeper High School.
Cooper, The Northern Virginia Daily's Male Athlete of the Week for May 25-31, won the regional discus crown with a throw of 148 feet, 7 inches. He beat the rest of the field by nearly nine feet.
"I knew if I did the best I could I would get one or two," Cooper said. "Me and [teammate] Josh [Gum] are up there every single meet."
Part of Cooper's success over the last month -- which includes a Conference 28 championship in the discus -- can be attributed to the warmer weather.
"Me and Josh did our best throws at Turner Ashby [on April 12] in the early part of the season. Then there was a three-week period where it was cold and rainy immediately after that," said Cooper, whose season high is a throw of 150 feet, 6 inches. "We didn't throw much and then my throws went downhill. But then the weather came at the right time and I peaked."
Cooper has also been aided this season -- and over the course of his career -- by his close friendship with Gum. Both throwers constantly push each other in practice and in meets, which in turn makes each a better thrower.
"When you have the first and second, probably, best throwers in the state in our A system, it helps a lot because you're just constantly pushing each other and wanting to do better every day," Cooper said. "It's important to have each other there. Even if we're having a bad day we can joke around back-and-forth, maybe lighten it up a little bit knowing that there is always tomorrow."
The Group 3A state meet in Harrisonburg is up next for Cooper, and Yew said he considers the senior the early favorite to win the state title in the discus. Cooper doesn't just want a state title, though. He wants a top-two sweep for two of the most best throwers in the school's history.
"Our goal as Central this weekend is to get one and two in discus. And if that happens, that's as good as it can get, really," Cooper said. "[I'm] pretty confident that we're going to be able to pull out first and second this weekend."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD