HORTONVILLE, Wis. (WFRV) – When shot putter Ben Smith started his freshman year at Hortonville, he hoped to reach a throw of 60 feet by the time he graduated. In his first meet as a junior, he set the mark for the nation’s longest throw: 67 feet 7.25 inches.

Smith and the Hortonville Polar Bears competed in the FVA Conference Boys Quad on April 10, the first outdoor meet of the spring, just a week after the Wisconsin State Indoor Track and Field Competition.

In front of an expectant crowd, Smith felt some extra pressure to perform. At Indoor State, he’d set a personal record and the nation’s best indoor throw of 67 feet 8.25 inches. So on his fourth throw of the quad, when he breached 67 feet once more, he felt a sense of relief.

“This was definitely a release off my shoulders. I was kind of stressing, kind of wanted to throw far. Especially after today, I was kind of worried, having eyes on me. Wondering how far I’d throw outside,” Ben Smith said. He won the meet handily, throwing over 21 feet further than second place.

Smith’s coaches are equally impressed with the junior’s quick growth and domination. Hortonville track and field head coach Kevin Sours has been coaching since the 1980s but has never seen this level of performance.

“I’ve had a number of those years, a few national caliber ones and so he fits right in there with them. But not at this age. Again those were a lot of seniors. This is ‘once in four decades’ I guess you could say,” Sours said while laughing. When asked what he believes Smith can accomplish during his time as a Polar Bear, Sours simply said, “that’s up to him.”

Bob Smith is the Hortonville throwing coach and Ben Smith’s father. Bob was a thrower himself, competing at UW Madison in college. Ben has used his father’s marks as motivation, and the two push one another in the field.

“I think he’d tell you too…we didn’t see 67 this early. At least not coming right away, so that was more of a next year kind of goal. And it’s becoming more of a reality this year right now.” Bob Smith’s personal record of 67 feet was the benchmark for his son, but the high schooler has already eclipsed his father. Something both Smith throwers made sure to point out.

As for what’s next for Ben Smith, he has a “special number in his head” for what he wants to throw next, but is choosing to keep that measurement to himself. Smith is the reigning WIAA Division 1 state title holder in the shot put and the discus.

Smith’s current personal record is one inch further than the Wisconsin boys state D-1 mark in the shot put, set by Green Bay Preble’s Steve Marcelle in 2005. But, to break that record, Smith would need to set the mark at state.

Hortonville and Smith will compete in the Oshkosh North FVA Quad on Tuesday, April 18.