Like many athletes, John Purvis viewed track and field as a way to stay in shape for another sport.
But to his shock and dismay, it has become much more than that.
After his freshman soccer season at Winslow in 2016, where he was following in the footsteps of his older brother, Joe, an All-County player on the pitch, Purvis gave indoor track and field a shot at the urging of a teammate.
"I started doing track my freshman year when the captain of my soccer team (Tre Averhart) suggested to the other guys to come out for track to stay in shape,'' said Purvis.
Purvis decided to give the shot put a try, but the results weren't very impressive at first. In fact, Purvis was brutally honest when describing his first track season.
"I was terrible at the shot put when I first started my freshman year,'' said Purvis. "My indoor PR was 28 feet.''
It would have been easy for Purvis to throw in the towel and go back to focusing solely on soccer. But he refused to give up.
"I loved the team and the brotherhood,'' he said.
Plus, Purvis was determined to show he could improve and succeed in the circle, so he summoned his blue collar work ethic and started working tirelessly on his new craft.
The hard work paid off as Purvis rapidly improved.
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In the spring of his freshman year, Purvis saw his PR climb to 46-1 1/4, and then he exploded for a big PR at the time of 50-4 1/2 in the spring of his sophomore year.
Hitting 50 was huge breakthrough for Purvis, but he knew in order to take that next big step and challenge the state's best he had to work on his technique and devote even more time to the shot.
So last winter, with the help of several coaches in South Jersey, Purvis began to learn the spin. Then he made a tough decision when he gave up soccer last fall to focus on training for the shot.
After Purvis extended his PR to 56-10 last spring, which he threw to place seventh at the Meet of Champions, he has elevated his prowess in the circle even more this winter as Purvis has become the current King of the Ring in the US.
After opening his senior season with a 57-8 1/2 to win the shot at the Olympic Conference Championships on Dec. 20 at the Bennett Center in Toms River, Purvis unloaded a bomb, sending the 12-pound ball 60-0 on Dec. 28 at the South Jersey Winter Meet #2 at the Bennett Center, vaulting Purvis to the No. 1 spot in NJ and the US this season! Purvis is 4.5 inches ahead of the US#2 59-7.5 thrown by Nathan Cooper of Dothan High in Alabama.
Purvis' 60-0 throw for a Winslow school record. / Video courtesy of Winslow T&F
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The 60 placed Purvis No. 24 on the state's all--time indoor list and it shattered the Camden County record of 57-10 1/2 set by Matthew Huckabee of Timber Creek at the 2010 State Group 3 Championships.
Purvis said the 60 footer came easy for him, and he went for some bigger throws that day, but fouled on all his other attempts.
"The 60 throw was very fluent and easy,'' said Purvis. "I knew I had a lot more in the tank and I tried to test that.''
Purvis said being ranked No. 1 in the country is something that blows his mind.
"It's unbelievable. I'm overwhelmed,'' said Purvis, who is headed to Morgan State to continue his athletic and academic careers. "But I remain humble about my achievements at all times. Little did I know that I'd become good at what I do now.''
It wasn't easy for Purvis to give up soccer, where he made a name for himself by being chosen All-Conference while serving as the captain of the soccer team at Winslow as a sophomore and junior.
"It was super tough,'' said Purvis, who is probably the first athlete in state history to be named All-Conference in soccer and threw 60 feet in the shot. "I played soccer since I was four and was playing on college soccer showcase teams. But I was putting on weight and it became harder to play soccer, so I knew it was time to focus on the shot. My brother was the reason I started playing sports, but track and field finally became a sport I could call my own.''
The 6-1, 250-pound Purvis credits numerous coaches for helping his development in the circle.
"Multiple people helped me with spinning,'' said Purvis. "I credit all of these men-Ray Wilks, Curtis Custis (head coach at Winslow), Anthony Witter, Aaron Collins.''
Wilks, a state champion thrower at Bridgeton High who starred in the circle at UConn. Custis, a teammate of Wilks at Bridgeton, is the head coach at Winslow. Witter also starred at Bridgeton and was a decathlete in college and has coached at Winslow, and Collins threw at Winslow and Montclair State, and now coaches at Winslow.
The 57+ season opener by Purvis at Olympic Conference. Video courtesy of Winslow T&F
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Purvis, who said his leg strength and ability to adapt to new things are his biggest strengths, has put on 15 pounds and grown an inch since last year. He also said he's in the weight room about 4-5 times, and works on his technique everyday.
"I still don't feel comfortable spinning, my technique will continue to change,'' said Purvis. also one of the state's top discus throwers with a PR of 168-9 that he threw to win the Olympic Conference title last spring, No. 12 on the state list for the season.
Purvis has also become a student of the sport.
"I watch videos everyday,'' he said. "I look at Jordan Geist (University of Arizona) and Jordan West (a multiple M of C winner at Rahway High who is now starring at Tennessee). It's helped me immensely.''
Don't be surprised if Purvis launches another huge PR very soon. He has had some recent bombs in practice, including one he said was measured at 71 feet without fouling,
"I feel anyone is capable of hitting 60 or 70 as long as you are dedicated to the grind and struggle,'' said Purvis, who will be back in the circle today (Wednesday Jan. 8) at the South Jersey Winter Meet #6 at the at the Bennett Center.
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Although he isn't about to make any predictions, Purvis did mention that the state indoor shot put record of 71-9 1/2, set in 2011 by the great Nick Vena of Morristown, is something that motivates him.
"I believe anything is possible and I'm sure gonna give that record a go,'' said Purvis.
Purvis said winning his first Meet of Champions title and possibly capturing the New Balance Nationals Indoor title this season are big goals.
"I've always wanted to be a Meet of Champions winner, but my goal has always been to compete,'' said Purvis If i win MOC's, I want to battle back and fourth with the best throwers in NJ. I would also love to represent NJ at NBNI by winning a national title. I don't think about it all. I just go with the flow.''
What would Purvis have said as a freshman if someone told him he'd one day be the No. 1 ranked shot putter in the country?
"I wouldn't really have had a response to be completely honest with you,'' said Purvis. "I'd honestly just laugh and keep pushing.''
- Freshman Indoors- 28-4
- Freshman Outdoors-46 1.25
- Sophomore Indoors-44-5
- Sophomore Outdoors-50-4.5
- Junior Indoors-54-5.75
- Junior Outdoors-56-10 (7th at Meet of Champions)
- Senior Indoors-60-0