There are those who are blessed with natural ability and those who work hard enough to mold themselves into an incredible athlete.
Then there is Daniel Weirich
junior undeniably is bestowed with natural talent, and he could compete with a handful of others for hardest-working athlete on the planet. But that favorable combination didn't alone mold him into the reigning Class 2A state champion in the discus and shot put, and to perhaps the finest athlete in the state in the latter.
"Daniel was always taller than the other kids, but when he was younger, he just had a lot of funky habits and a lot of funky ways of doing things," said Stephanie Bohlander, who coaches the Eagles boys and girls track and field teams. "But he has one of the best teachers you could ever ask for."
Bohlander wasn't trying to pump herself up with that comment. She was referring to Trey Eder, an Eads athletic legend who went on to compete in track and field at Colorado State and now is the Eagles athletic director and throwing coach. He has taken a talented-but-raw athlete and transformed him into one of the state's best.
Weirich's shot put throw of 55 feet, 4.75 inches at the state track meet earned him a spot on the All-Colorado team. It was quite an accomplishment for a then-sophomore from a school located 170 miles southeast of the Denver metro area, from a town seldom heard of by anyone other than fellow small-towners. The track and field team features 11 members – nine girls and two boys.
"Before high school started, I started lifting and throwing the heavier discus -- the high school discus -- but my form was pretty bad," Weirich said. "But I always knew I wanted to be successful. It was just a matter of getting used to it."
Enter Eder, whose attention to detail, combined with Weirich's ability and work ethic, has been a brilliant combination.
The state feat was impressive, but Weirich has already one-upped that performance and plans on obliterating it. Just Saturday, he set the Eads school record by throwing 58-9.25 at the Warren Mitchell Invitational at Limon High School. It broke Eder's mark (58-7) and was the farthest throw this year of any Colorado athlete, regardless of classification.
"I've been going for the record for awhile now, so it feels like a big monkey off my back," Weirich said. "I didn't think it was that far of a throw right off the bat, but once I heard it was 58-9, I jumped up pretty crazy. I didn't really talk to Trey right after it happened; I kind of walked around. But he congratulated me after awhile."
He hopes to be throwing an astounding 62 feet by the state meet. Yes, about 6 feet farther than last year. That's the full length of his husky 275-pound frame, which Bohlander said "doesn't contain an ounce of fat."
While known principally for his shot put prowess, Weirich also has excelled in the discus. His top throw so far is 171-2, well above his winning 162-2 at state last season. And that mark was more than 6 feet ahead of second-place Ty Van Oort of Rye.
"Eads is a really small school and everyone is close, so we've watched Daniel go from a hard-working little boy to an even harder-working young man," Bohlander said. "He comes from a supportive family, he's a good student and one of the nicest kids you're ever going to meet."
In a school as small as Eads, the male athletes are expected to participate in more than one sport. Weirich had done so as a freshman and sophomore, taking part in football in the fall and alternating from wrestling and basketball in the winter.
This school year has been different. After spending two to three hours per night in the weight room during the summer (other than Sundays), he spent the fall and winter going to various indoor and outdoor track and field events.
"I just wanted to stay away from that whole injury thing," he said of leaving behind the mainstream sports.
There is another Weirich on the Eads girls track and field team, Emily, who is Daniel's cousin. His older sister, Lori, now throws at Fort Hays (Kan.) State. As far as Daniel, he hopes to be mentioned among the top 15 to 20 field athletes in the nation. And of course, Eder will pitch CSU when Weirich selects a college.
"We've talked about that a lot," Weirich said. "I've been going to their camps for three years now. They're probably in my top two."
Whichever school Weirich chooses, Eder will have played a significant role. He compiles YouTube videos of shot put and discus athletes and helps Weirich study their techniques, dissecting which attributes make them successful.
"Trey can tell you any stats of any thrower or track athlete out there," Bohlander said.
When he recites those of Weirich, they are worth listening to. And odds are, they will become much more impressive by the time he graduates from Eads.