WL's George Karlaftis wins shot put state title
BLOOMINGTON — Seventy-one years ago, Muncie Central's William Brewer won the Indiana state shot put title.
No sophomore had won since.
Not until West Lafayette's George Karlaftis stepped into the circle at Indiana University's Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex on a hot Friday afternoon.
There, Karlaftis entered competition mode.
Last year, it took him from the 22nd-seeded shot putter in the state as a freshman to a sixth-place finish.
This time, it made the Red Devil thrower Indiana’s first sophomore state shot put champion since 1946.
“When I go into what I call my competition mode, I think I tend to do better than I would without competition, so that is why I have the success I have in the state meet,” said Karlaftis, who came in as the second seed.
After a lackluster final throw from top seed Logan Calvin, Karlaftis stepped into the ring, leg noticeably shaking, and found an additional two feet from his previous best throw to claim first place with a toss of 59 feet, 5 1/5 inches.
“I just got so hyped,” Karlaftis said. “Everyone started cheering after the last person (Bloomington North’s Logan Calvin) underthrew my best throw. My foot was shaking from all the excitement that was going through my body, but it was a great way to end state.”
Calvin finished second, almost three feet behind Karlaftis’ last launch.
The goal for Karlaftis was 60 feet. But the goal first and foremost was to take home a first-place medal.
“Him going 59 last week at regionals definitely set up where we were hoping for 60s maybe,” West Lafayette throws coach Josh Haynes said. “We’re close. As coaches say, whatever it takes to win.
It concludes a hectic spring where Karlaftis has spent as much time on his phone talking to college football coaches as he has practicing his now championship craft.
Karlaftis said he made track his first priority.
Come Monday, that shifts to football.
Two weeks from now, the highly sought after defensive lineman will go on a visit to Alabama and to Miami University a month after that. He plans to get to Penn State, Iowa and Stanford as well this summer.
They want him for his speed and the havoc he creates for opposing offenses.
But they may just be getting a shot putter for the track and field team, too.
“I think I am going to throw as well in the spring season in college,” said Karlaftis, who currently has seven Division I scholarship offers. “I am not 100 percent sure on that.”
Every winner since 1947 had been a junior or senior. Until Friday.
“That individual shot put, he belonged there and he took charge,” West Side track coach Lane Custer said.
Karlaftis said he knew he would win the shot put.
The scary part is, Haynes knows there's so much untapped potential.
"I feel like he is not even using all he has to offer," Haynes said. "I feel like he’s not throwing as tall as he could be. He’s 6-4, 6-5. If he gets taller, 6-6 or 6-7, (there's) more arc and he can go out there a lot further."
Karlaftis knows he has more distance, too.
Now a state champion, he's raising the bar.
“State record (66-8 ½) is the next thing,” Karlaftis said. “I am coming for that. Hopefully I can get it next year and then we’ll see what is next after that.”
Contact high school sports reporter Sam King at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @samueltking