WEST POINT — A few days before the Section 9 state qualifying track and field meet on Friday, Robert Decker accomplished what he set out to do. The weight thrower reached 61 feet, surpassing the threshold he’d set for himself.
“That was my goal for the whole year,” Decker told his coach at New York Hammer Throw Club Kevin Sullivan.
“Never put a top number on your goal,” Sullivan responded.
So Decker, a senior at Minisink Valley who tossed a personal record 65 feet, one-quarter inch Friday to place first in weight throw, kept pushing, just as he has for the past year, transforming both his body and his mindset. He was 300 pounds, a non-athlete. Now, he’s the number one weight thrower in indoor track and field in Section 9 and has an eye on winning the state meet during outdoor season in the hammer throw. He’s shed roughly 80 pounds in the process, all because he found something he was passionate enough about to encourage him to make changes.
Sullivan describes Decker’s physique to that of a college football player. The most intimidating aspect of Decker’s dominance though has been the sudden nature of it all. The future Manhattan College thrower attracted attention from scouts not because of his years of experience but rather in spite of it. He has been so good, so fast that everyone wants a piece of his potential.
“He just fell in love with the sport,” said Marlboro thrower Freddie Callo, “and he was naturally good at it.”
Aside from recreational basketball, Decker hadn’t been too involved in sports. But it wasn’t until junior year that he found Sullivan, who coached Ole Miss hammer thrower Joey Benedetto. Decker didn’t know anything about the event when he showed up for his first practice. But soon, he was a natural. Sullivan saw Decker’s potential and told him, “If you really commit this summer, I can make you into something special.”
Not long removed from that day, Decker is chasing a state championship, inspiring friends like Callo and young athletes who remind Decker of himself.
“Hopefully," Decker said, “I can shine some light on some kids who think they’re not good enough.”
TRACK AND FIELD
Section 9 state qualifier
Key: Cornwall (COR); Ellenville (ELL); Goshen (G); James I. O’Neill (JIO); Kingston (K); Marlboro (MAR); Middletown (MID); Minisink Valley (MV); Monroe-Woodbury (MW); Monticello (MON); Newburgh (NFA); New Paltz (NP); Ontoera (ONT); Pine Bush (PB); Port Jervis (PJ); Valley Central (VC); Wallkill (WAL); Warwick (WAR)
55-meter dash: 1. Brandon DeJesus (PB) 6.59; 2. Jiles Addison (COR) 6.63; 3. Justin Gumbs (MW) 6.69*; 55 hurdles: 1. Nicholas Mirecki (WAS) 7.80; 2. Elijah Mallard (WAS) 8.05; 3. Marco Olavarria (COR) 8.12*; 600: 1. Petro Klishch (MW) 1:23.94; 2. Keith Allen (MW) 1:24.75; 3. Lorenzo Castro (WAS) 1:25.48; 1,000: 1. Chalen Bobish (MV) 2:37.95; 2. Steven Struk (MV) 2:38.42; 3. Matt Cupertino (WAS) 2:39.02; 3,200: 1. Stephen Perrillo-Sullivan (G) 9:38.12; 2. Behailu Bekele-Arcuri (WAR) 9:44.85; 3. Harry Marson (JIO) 9:46.48*; 800 relay: 1. Washingtonville 1:33.76; 2. Cornwall 1:33.96; 3. Middletown 1:34.81*; 1,600 relay: 1. Monroe-Woodbury (Petro Klishch, Owen Kelly, Brennan Frascello) 3:28.43; 2. Newburgh (Amaury Rudd, Matthew Worrell, Charles Cotton) 3:31.11; 3. Warwick (Vincent Michelini, Michael Moore, Cohen Emmerich) 3:35.38; 3,200 relay: 1. Goshen (Andrew Johnson, Gregory Hannibal, Miguel Campos-Castro, Stephen Perillo-Sullivan) 8:11.98; 2. Monroe-Woodbury (Keith Allen, Tyler Anderson, Nicholas Howell, Cesar Juarez) 8:13.57; 3. Pine Bush (Tyler Sorace, JamesMichael Vizzari, Christopher Gentile, Aiden Gentile) 8:35.40; High jump: 1. Anthony Nelson (WAL) 6-6; 2. Adrian Collado (MID) 6-3; 3. Thomas Markarian (NP) 6-3: Long jump: 1. Andrew Ponton (MID) 21-.5; 2. Anthony Stevens (NP) 20-7; 3. Odera Okafor (MW) 19-11.75; Triple jump: 1. Andrew Ponton (MID) 45-2; 2. Owen Kelly (MW) 43-8.75; 3. Randy Odhiambo (FDR) 43-2.75; Pole vault: 1. Louis Martinez (WAL) 15-0; 2. Nicholas Mirecki (WAS) 15-0; 3. Noah Brown (NP) 13-0*; Weight throw: 1. Robert Decker (MV) 65-0.25; 2. Michael Fisher (PB) 62-3.5; 3. Freddie Callo (MAR) 60-8*