Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

California's Stafford a Big Winner in Shot

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

California's Stafford a Big Winner in Shot

Article excerpt

At 6 feet 2, 290 pounds, California High School's Jelani Stafford was one of the biggest athletes at the WPIAL track and field championships.

He was also one of the biggest surprises.

Stafford won the Class 2A shot put and is believed to be the first California boy to ever win a WPIAL track and field title.

Not bad for a senior who, on a whim, decided to join the track team for the first time this year.

"This is a surprise for the simple fact that this is my first year doing track ever. Never picked up a shot put, javelin, nothing," said Stafford, whose personality matches his large frame.

Stafford's top sport is football. He has to be one of the largest running backs in WPIAL history. Over his final two seasons, he rushed for 2,685 yards and scored 41 touchdowns. Stafford signed with Youngstown State, where he will be a defensive tackle.

This spring, Stafford decided to tackle track, and it has worked out pretty well. Physics actually played a big role in Stafford giving the sport a try. Stafford's physics teacher, Pete Harris, is the throwing coach at California.

"There have been a lot of people in my school who have been big influences on me," Stafford said. "My physics teacher. He's the throwing coach. He always told me, 'Jelani, you should just try track. You should just come out and try it.' And I'm like, all right, maybe it will be a good idea. My girlfriend was already on the track team. Maybe it would be OK."

In addition to listening to Harris, Stafford said he has learned a lot about throwing techniques by watching YouTube.

Stafford has broken the school record in the shot put four times, the latest being his first-place heave of 51 feet, 4¼ inches at the WPIAL championships. Stafford is seeded eighth at the PIAA championships, which will be held Friday and Saturday at Shippensburg University.

Hempfield

Gavin Mayo is an unusual two-sport star. A senior at Hempfield, Mayo is an All-American swimmer who finished second in the Class 3A long jump at the WPIAL championships. …

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