• 54°

Branch gives Hornets first boys#8217; state crown

COLUMBUS — Tyler Branch decided to change the rules of the game. Instead of playing follow the leader, Branch made everyone follow him.

And everyone followed him Saturday as he won the Division III state shot put championship at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

“Coach (Jay Lucas) told me I was going to follow the leader. He said don’t worry about it. Just get a good throw in and get to the finals and get a big one there,” Branch said.

Instead of waiting for the finals, Branch uncorked his best throw of the day with his second attempt as he threw 57-feet, 4-inches.

Andrew Meyer of Minster, who threw more than 59-feet last week in winning his regional meet, was the favorite coming into the meet and was hitting 60-footers in warm-ups.

But Meyer fouled on all three of his preliminary throws and failed to make the finals.

“From looking at the Internet, we knew (Meyer) had thrown the farthest. I knew it was going to be tough. I just wanted to come and try and do my best,” Branch said.

Cory Meuleman of Columbus Grove was second with a distance of 56-5 and one-half.

Branch is the first boy to win a state championship for the Hornets. The only girl to win a title was Gina Bare, also in the shot put.

“It’s wild. It’s crazy to do something like that. I feel great,” Branch said of the accomplishment.

Lucas said the big difference for Branch was his ability to handle the pressure of the state meet.

“Tyler had a lot of expectations on himself,” said Lucas. “With all the pressure coming in and what he put on himself, he did a great job of handling the pressure and performing the way he did.”

Branch had thrown a school-record 58-6 at the Jesse Owens Classic on May 5. Even though he won the district and regional meets, Lucas said Branch was not at the top of his game.

“He slipped a little after he set the record, but today he accepted the challenge. He did well,” said Lucas.

Branch was happy with the win, but he had hoped for more.

“I just wish I had thrown farther,” Branch said.

Branch also competed in the discus. He threw 151-2 to finish in 10th place. Meuleman won with a throw of 180-4.