North Xtra: Knoch has freshman prodigy


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In just the second outdoor meet of his high school track and field career, Knoch freshman Jordan Geist broke the 30-year-old school record for the shot put.

A few weeks earlier, Geist finished second in the shot put in the state indoor track championships.

For those who know or have seen Geist over the past few years, his early high school success is not a surprise.

"It's a family affair," Knoch track coach Wess Brahler said. "He's been groomed for this for a long time. When you see a young man like this with this kind of talent, everyone gets excited."

Geist's parents, Judy and Jim, met at Slippery Rock University in the late 1980s when both were throwers at the school. Jim was a four-time All-American in the javelin, while Judy was a two-time All-American in the shot put and also threw the discus. Both are in the Slippery Rock Hall of Fame.

So it was only natural that Jordan gravitated toward throwing. But first, like many young kids interested in sports, he tried baseball. By his own admission, however, he wasn't very good in that sport.

"He was [one of those] kids who played with the dirt," Judy said.

So when he was in fourth grade, Jordan decided he wanted to try the sport that his parents knew the best.

"In our basement, we have a wall covered with memorabilia from my parents' high school and college achievements," said Jordan Geist, who resides in the Cabot section of Jefferson Township. "So I thought I would try to get good at it and maybe win some medals, too."

Geist started traveling around the country to different competitions, placing very highly at the events.

He admits that his success made him overconfident, and he was surprised when he started competing on Knoch's middle school team and wasn't the best thrower on the team.

That honor went to Brennan McTighe, who is a year older than Geist.

"I always thought I'd do well because when I was in summer track, I was always one of the better kids," Geist said. "But then I got to middle school, and a kid on our team was beating me. So I started training harder."

Jim had built Jordan a ring in the backyard for him to practice, and Jordan also worked hard on putting weight on his frame.

Judy, who is Jordan's throwing coach both on Knoch's high school team and at home, said she's seen a marked improvement in her son's throwing over the past two years.

His jump has allowed him to step right into high school competition and excel.

At the state indoor meet March 1 at State College, Geist's best throw of 58-4½ was just behind the 59-5¼ throw of Hempfield Area's Max Adams.

While competing at the event, Geist also met his idol, Ryan Whiting. Whiting, a world champion and 2012 U.S. Olympian, broke the state record in the shot put while at Central Dauphin High School, becoming the second high school athlete in Pennsylvania history to hit the 70-foot mark in the event, joining Baldwin's legendary thrower, Ron Semkiw.

"Whiting said that Jordan was throwing 4 or 5 feet farther than him at this point in their careers," Judy Geist said. "He said he expects big things from Jordan."

It didn't take long for Geist, who also plays for the Knights football squad, to break a record himself. In Knoch's second meet of the season, the Knoch Relays, Geist unleashed a throw of 61-4. It broke the Knoch record of 54-9½, which was set by Mike Crouch in 1984. Interestingly, it was Crouch who was officiating the shot put at the Knoch Relays when Geist broke his record.

"I knew he could throw it about 60 feet, but to do it in the second outdoor meet of the year surprised me," Judy said. "I think he was pumped up for it because there were 100 people there watching."

Judy thinks that by the time her son is a senior, he could be throwing in the 70-foot range in the shot put and the 200-foot range in the discus. His technique is already pretty sound, but the key is for him to keep adding to his 6-foot-1, 215-pound frame.

"Right now, I'm one of the smaller throwers for this level," Jordan said. "I need to work hard at getting more powerful."

Geist, who finished second to Hickory's Luke Lewis in the shot put and won the discus at the Butler Invitational on April 11, is one of the favorites to take home the WPIAL and PIAA titles this season in either event, but especially the shot put. His 61-4 throw still stands as the best reported mark of any athlete in the state this season, and he has consistently thrown at 58 feet.

But Geist isn't looking that far ahead. Right now, he's just enjoying getting to compete in the sport he loves with the rest of his family, including his brother Jared, a senior jumper for Knoch who qualified for the WPIAL in the long jump last season.

"It's definitely been special," Geist said of competing on the same team as his brother. "It's definitely brought us closer together.

"As far as my goals, I'm just taking it week to week. I'm trying to get a new personal record throughout the season."


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