DISCUS DOMINATION / Palic nears MHS record

yler Palic has distinguished himself as one of the state’s top discus throwers, and he still has one year of high school competition to complete.

The Marion thrower capped his junior campaign with a gold medal throw of 175 feet, 11 inches in Class 3A at the state track and field championship May 26. That was the second-best throw at state, regardless of class, tying South Gray’s Gilbert Peters’ distance in Class 1A and coming in less than 5 feet from Tonganoxie’s LeeRoi Johnson’s 180-3 in 4A.

Palic’s effort gave Marion its first individual state champion since Alicia Maloney and Marissa Jacobson won the pole vault and triple jump, respectively, in 2014.

State competition

Palic entered the state competition confident, he said, having won the discus at every meet but two this season.

Palic won the Class 3A regional discus title at Russell with a throw of 165-10 despite throwing in the rain. He attained his personal-best throw of 178-6 at the Heart of America league meet at Sterling two weeks before state, winning the league title by more than 40 feet.

That mark gave him the fourth best distance in the state—and best in 3A—heading into the championship weekend.

But despite his ranking, when the Friday morning of state dawned, Palic said he felt unsettled.

“I had been nervous, surprisingly, the whole day,” he said. “I had been running around all day just waiting for the event to start. It took forever, but it finally started, and I was kind of worrying I would throw out of bounds, like I did. But after the first throw, it was all right. I got one in, and that took away all the nervousness.”

Palic’s first throw of 167-10 was enough to qualify for finals—that distance alone would have beaten Norton’s Jace Ruder’s second-place throw of 155-1 by more than 12 feet.

Although Palic fouled his next three attempts, including his first throw of finals, knowing he held a sizeable lead relieved the pressure.

“Finals finally came around, and I managed to figure it out, narrow it down and keep them in,” Palic said. “I was already going to win, because the next kid closest to me—the only kid that could’ve thrown that far—had already thrown and he had only ended up (throwing) 155 (feet), so I was pretty much comfortable then.”

Palic attained his state-champion throw on his second attempt of finals, then tossed a 175-2 effort to conclude the day.

The key on his final two throws, he said, was improving his form, which in turn, increased speed and torque.

“I have a problem with not keeping my arm back enough, so I don’t get the full turn out of the throw, and sometimes not getting my foot down fast enough,” he said. “I hadn’t been quite doing that correctly until those last few throws.

Palic also placed sixth in shot put (48-51⁄2) at state this year—he competes in all three throwing events but said discus is his favorite.

The making of a champion

Palic said he has always enjoyed track and field, gravitating toward the throwing events, as both his father and brother were throwers, too.

In middle school, he set the eighth-grade school record in the discus at 147-7, a mark he still holds. The experience helped narrow his focus.

Fueled by a passion for the sport, Palic’s determination also stems from a sibling rivalry with his older brother, Kyle, as well as a desire to continue competing after high school.

“I’ve always liked track and field, and it’s just been kind of a goal of mine to beat my brother in track and field, so I’ve been working towards that,” he said. “And I’m thinking about throwing in college. It’s kind of laid back and I can do my own thing, plus I’m good at it, so I’ve just (come) to love it, I guess.”

In 2015, when Kyle was a senior and Tyler a freshman, both qualified for state in the discus. Kyle placed fifth with a throw of 149-5, while Tyler finished 10th (135-11).

“I never did beat him that year though,” the younger Palic said. “I was close.”

Palic went on to qualify for state as a sophomore in 2016, placing third in the discus with a throw of 148-6, within 3 feet of second place.

Then, as a junior this year, Palic improved his state performance by more than 27 feet.

“A lot of it, I think, was just getting stronger the summer before, plus perfecting the form a little more,” he said. “Strength will get you a little bit, but a lot of it’s in your form. I think it was more a combination of both actually.”

Although he’s won the state discus title his brother never did, the younger Palic admitted that Kyle still holds the upper hand on both the gridiron and the wrestling mat.

“He’s still got the football and wrestling on me, so I’ve got to win wrestling now and go all-state in football,” Palic said. “(That) would be the goal.”

Even in track and field, Palic has unfinished business.

Palic’s two goals at the beginning of the 2017 season were to win a state championship and set a new school record.

He accomplished the first and will have another shot at the school record when he returns to competition as a senior next spring. Marion’s current record-holder is two-time state discus champion Nick Klenda, who set the record at 182-10 in 2010.

Palic is also eyeing the state meet record. In Class 3A, he would need to beat 199-7, thrown by Eric Thomas of Hays-Thomas More Prep-Marian in 2005.

“I’ve got to get the school record next year,” he said. “That’s the goal. That or the state record. If I could go out on that, that’d be good.”

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