Ever since Cole Tucker started throwing the shot put, his goal has always been to become the king of the ring in New Jersey.
After making steady improvements in the circle over his first few years at Colts Neck, the 6-0, 235-pound Tucker now finds himself exactly where he had always hoped to be.
As a junior last indoor season, Tucker unloaded a 57-5, No. 1 in NJ and No. 9 in the nation by an underclassman. With his sights set on much bigger numbers, Tucker worked hard since last winter, and it has certainly paid off.
Tucker has solidified his status as the No. 1 thrower in the state with a pair of 60 plus bombs in his last two meets! Tucker broke through a huge barrier in November when he sent the 12-pounder soaring 60-5.5, a PR by more than three-feet at the time, at the Thanksgiving Throwdown held in the backyard of Jon Kalnas' gym, Critical Mass, in Tinton Falls.
Kalnas, a state champ during his days at Paulsboro High and an All-American while at Monmouth University, works with several throwers around the state, including Tucker.
Tucker improved his PR again on Dec. 27 when he exploded for a 60-9 at the MistleThrow Competition at the Huisman Family Farm in Wall.
Now that Tucker, who was fifth at the indoor MOCs last March, has joined the 60-foot club, he has his eye on some much bigger targets and titles heading into the indoor season.
NJ MileSplit recently caught up with Tucker for a Q and A, where he talked about the monster throws he hopes to hit, his quest to become a state and national champion, the keys to his success, his college plans, and a whole lot more.
So sit back and enjoy the words of wisdom from Tucker, one of the best throwers in the country.
Cole Tucker Interview
NJM: First off, congrats on hitting 60 feet for the first time last month with the 60-5.5! What did it mean to you to go past 60 for the first time? How long has that been a goal of yours and what was feeling like when you heard how far the throw was?
Tucker: It felt super good to finally throw over 60, as it seems to be the goal of many shot putters and a mark that separates the men from the boys. Throwing 60+ has been a goal of mine ever since my freshman year, I had my work cut out for me as my PR that season was below 30. When I heard the distance called I was so excited I almost tackled the closest person next to me.
What was the rest of your series like? Any other throws over 60 that day?
I didn't have any other throws over 60, but two other over 59 and one more over 58.
Cole, what's the biggest difference that enabled you to improve your personal best from 57-5 to 60-5.5? What specifically can you point to that raised your PR by three feet?
The biggest thing is consistency. Small improvements everyday will lead to massive strides down the stretch. There are so many parts of being a track and field athlete that it is hard to point to one factor that helped my go from 57 to 60+, but if I had to pick one it would be improving my diet and sleep, both are important in helping your body recover.
Now that you are a 60 foot thrower, what are your biggest goals in the shot for your senior year? What's the next big target you have for this indoor and outdoor season?
My goals for this season are to win a MOCs title, to be an All-American at NBN (provided the meet happens) and to be pushing 70 feet by the end of my high school career.
Unfortunately, there wasn't an outdoor season last spring because of COVID. How tough was that mentally to deal with and what type of things did you do on your own to improve as a thrower and stay motivated?
It was very tough mentally knowing there would be no season to prove what I could do and show off all my hard work. However, motivation wasn't hard to come by, a quick scroll on Instagram and you can see your main competition have huge throws in practice, or a preteen kid who can lift more than you, that will always get you motivated to train.
Lots of great throwers work with a personal throwing coach in addition to their high school coach. How about you, Cole?
Yes, during the off-season I work with Jon Kalnas at his gym. It is a great environment and he is one of the best coaches around. Any thrower around Monmouth County who wants to take the sport seriously should look into working with Jon when they can't practice with their school coach.
How and when did you get started throwing the shot put and discus? What got you interested in getting involved with track and field and throwing?
I started throwing in 8th grade just because some of my friends were doing it and I thought it sounded fun. After my freshman season ended, I couldn't get enough, I realized I didn't want to stop practicing so I got my own shot put, and discus, and threw whenever I had the chance. That's when I started taking it seriously.
When was your big breakthrough in the shot, when you realized that you could really be a great thrower and do big things in the sport?
I would say my breakthrough was my opening meet of spring track sophomore year. I had a solid indoor season steadily bumping up my PR to just under 42. Then when spring came around I opened up at 47-9, that's when I knew I had something going on.
Shot put final from the 2020 Indoor Meet of Champions
You made a huge jump from 41-11.75 indoors as a sophomore to 50-7 outdoors as a sophomore. What happened there? What did you do to make such a huge improvement in such a short period of time?
I made plenty of technical adjustments in the circle and I got a lot stronger in the weight room. I also developed a lot more confidence in my technique and in myself as an athlete.
Just about every thrower starts out with the glide, and some switch to the spin? How about you? Tell me about your transition from glide to spin? When did you make the change and what was that like?
I started out predominantly as a discus thrower, and only picked up shot towards the end of my freshman year, and during that time I glided. However, after that season ended I gave a little more attention to shot put and switched over to the spin. In the spin, I was bad for a long time. It took me a few months to match what I could do using the glide, but I stuck to the process and confidently say it worked out. Many throwers make the mistake of constantly switching back and forth between the glide and spin, and in that time they don't improve in either technique, once you make the switch, don't look back.
What do you love the most about throwing, and what do you consider your greatest strength as a thrower?
I like how cut and dry it is, if you work hard you will get better, and if you don't work hard it shows, you cant hide behind having a strong team around you, and the numbers don't lie. I would say my biggest strength is my coordination and body control as well as my mindset. For a 60 foot shot putter I wouldn't be considered strong, I'm not super tall, and while having good technique its not as pretty as others throwing similar distances. But the difference is in my mentality and my ability to move well.
What does it feel like to be the best thrower in Colts Neck history, and the No. 1 ranked thrower in NJ? You put a lot of hard work in to reach this level?
It is a surreal feeling. I remember in 8th grade my brother showed me the high school records for the shot and discus and being in disbelief. To think one day my name would be in the record book was crazy, but after years of hard work I made it happen.
Unfortunately, there won't be any state meets this indoor season because of COVID. So what type of things do you do to stay focused and motivated on improving?
It's sad there won't be a state meet this season, but its important to look at the big picture and don't fall off course. There will be championship meets again in the future.
What would it mean to you, Cole, to become a state champ and Meet of Champs winner this outdoor season? How much of a goal is that for you?
It would mean a lot to me and its been a goal I've had since I was a freshman, a goal that has kept me motivated through canceled seasons and shut down gyms, a goal that has kept me going through every tough time I've had in this sport.
How about the future, Cole. I know you are committed to attend Boston University. What was it about BU that made you feel that was the right place for you to continue your throwing and academic career, and what will you major in?
It really was a no brainer in many ways to pick BU. Excellent academics, I knew I would have great training partners, great facilities, and a coach who was one of the best and most versatile throwers at the NCAA lever ever in Coach Cartwright. As for a major I am going in undecided.
What other schools did you strongly consider?
Other schools that I was seriously interested in were Northeastern, Penn State, and Monmouth.