By Kyle Daubs
In discus, Dakota Spencer wasn’t used to losing.
Entering the Class 2A Tolono Unity Sectional, Spencer had won his event in every meet, but entered the postseason seeded No. 5.
On his very first throw of the postseason, Spencer hurled a personal best, 142 feet, 7.75 inches, and screamed with excitement.
“It was unbelievable because it was a PR for me,” said Spencer. “That’s why I was so excited. At that point, it was the farthest throw of the meet, so I knew I was in the lead.”
In the end, Spencer finished second, losing to Centralia’s JehChys Brown by almost 5 meters, but it didn’t matter. The Mattoon High School senior was going to qualify for the state tournament for the first time, so the excitement remained at an all-time high after finishing second for the first time this season.
“I was just really pumped because it was only a few feet from the qualifying standards, so I knew I could do it,” said Spencer. “It was what I was practicing all week to do.”
Spencer didn’t fall to just any slouch, though. Brown is ranked No. 2 overall in the Class 2A rankings for the state finals meet held at O’Brien Stadium. Spencer is in the mix for All-State status as he enters the field with the No. 13 overall mark.
A top-9 finish earns All-State honors, which is something Spencer has his sights on.
“I’d love a place,” said Spencer. “Everyone can have a good or bad day. I just hope I end on a high note. Ultimately, I would love to PR on the last meet of the season. If I PR and don’t place in the top-9, then congrats to everyone else. I’m just going to do the best that I can do.”
Spencer’s throw is the sixth-best discus heave since 2008 according to Athletic.net. Five of the six throwers have since earned All-State accolades at State Finals.
Spencer said that he is going to try and not think too much of it because that is what works best for him.
“A lot of it was just staying out of my head,” said Spencer. “Not stressing out thinking I needed to get this much more. When I think about it too much, I mess up my technique or get sloppy. When I throw, I try to focus on just one thing and let my muscle memory do the rest.”
This could be the final time the Apollo Conference champion throws. Spencer said that he is in talks with a few schools, but is likely to pursue Lake Land College due to scholarship opportunities he was rewarded.
Spencer says he is going to go enjoy the moment he has worked so hard to achieve.
“For track, it’s a lot different with how I go about thinking,” said Spencer. “I don’t go in thinking I am better than everyone else. I know that I can do what I need to do. If it was up to me, everyone would go to state. Having the competition is great. In track, you can only control what you can control. It’s not like football or basketball, where one mistake affects everyone. I went in thinking I had a good shot because I have worked my entire life for this moment.”