From the moment he picked up the 3-pound-9-ounce discus during his freshman year, Liberty’s Reno Tu’ufuli wanted to become the best thrower he possibly could be.
Working on his strength, footwork and technique for four hours a day the past few years has paid dividends for the 6-foot-4-inch, 270-pound senior, who has become one of the top throwers in the world for his age group.
Yet Tu’ufuli doesn’t let it go to his head. He’s still the typical teenager that gets his homework done, hangs out with friends on the weekend and participates in every local track meet, despite being the heavy favorite week in and week out.
Tu’ufuli, who is expected to take a full-ride scholarship to Iowa, said he has some unfinished business in his high school career. He’ll get the opportunity to check off some of his goals Saturday in the Sunrise Region meet at Palo Verde. The Sunrise and Sunset Region meets begin at 8 a.m. Saturday with track preliminaries and finals in some field events, including the boys discus.
“I’m hoping to win both events (discus and shot put) in regionals and then beat the state meet records at state,” he said. “I’m also pretty close to both (national records). I’m due for a new personal record, so I’m hoping I can get it. I’ve passed 200 (feet in the discus) a couple of times in practice, but I’m just hoping to get it on paper.”
His throws coach, Tim Cagle, doesn’t think his goals are out of reach.
“Reno is going to be doing big things just because of his work ethic,” Cagle said. “He’s going to be a double state champion. The sky’s the limit with him. I believe him when he says one day he’s going to throw in the 230s, 240s.”
Tu’ufuli’s desire to succeed only intensified after a seventh-place finish at the World Youth Championships in July in Donetsk, Ukraine. His discus performance was first among all Americans.
“When I did the worlds I’ve never felt anything like that,” Tu’ufuli said. “The experience, the feeling I got, there’s really nothing like it. I’m hoping to get a greater feeling than that, maybe even the Olympics. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life.”
In the past two seasons, Tu’ufuli has fully immersed himself in the sport. He gave up playing his first love of football to focus on throwing, even though he was a first-team All-Southeast League defensive end for the state runner-up Patriots in 2012.
But ever since he went all in, he has become a hot commodity on the recruiting trail. He garnered national attention after throwing 196 feet, 10 inches, in the discus April 5 at the Stanford Invitational (Calif.). At the time, the mark placed him first in the nation, according to dyestat.com. It is now third.
Tu’ufuli’s best throw in the shot put is 61 feet, 5½ inches, on April 19 at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif., which ranks 16th in the nation, according to dyestat.com.
At every local meet, other competitors loudly cheer for Tu’ufuli because he represents something bigger than that specific event. He is known as the unofficial “throwing” representative for Nevada. And that’s something he doesn’t take for granted.
“They have a lot of support for me,” Tu’ufuli said. “They always want to see me throw farther because they’ve never really seen anybody throw it that far. To see people throw 60s (in the shot put) and 190s (in the discus), you have to go out of state. It means a lot to me that they want to see me go even farther. When I throw it, I just don’t throw it for myself to get glory, I throw it for everybody else around me.”
The track finals and the remaining field event finals in both region meets will be May 17 at Palo Verde.
Contact reporter Ashton Feruson at email@example.com or 702-383-0430.