ARCADIA, Calif. -
One partially closed door slammed shut for Ethan Cochran
in November. A promising football career and stellar senior season ended prematurely with a second serious concussion.
That opened things widely for Cochran’s first passion – throwing the discus and heaving the shot put.
With a narrow focus, the Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.)
senior and Cal-bound standout has soared to new distances and is the national leader in the discus with a mark of 209 feet, 8 inches.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder set that mark while winning Saturday at the Arcadia Invitational. The defending California state champion also won the shot put with a lifetime best of 62-10, which ranks eighth nationally.
“I feel like everything is all coming together,” Cochran said. “My technique feels better, I’m lifting weights stronger and I feel like I have a really good plan of attack.”
That largely should be credited to one of the state’s top throwing coaches in Tony Ciarelli, who has produced a number of standouts including Bo Taylor, who went 213-7 and 63-11.50 at Newport Harbor before starring at UCLA from 2008-11.
But throwing all his attention into the throws, and away from the gridiron, has cleared Cochran’s mind, which is an ironic twist. He remembers little after his final concussion, sustained in the seventh week of the football season. Following an interception, the hard-hitting linebacker was tackled hard himself and his head slammed against the ground. It was at least Cochran’s second concussion of the season and his doctor told him to shut it down.
Even though he hadn't received any Division I football offers to that point, and likely his gridiron days were numbered, it still wasn’t an easy thing to hear. Cochran is competitive and talented and he averaged a whopping 12.1 tackles per game.
Deep down Cochran knew it was the right call. Weeks after the head injury he still suffered from headaches and lacking focus.
“I knew I shouldn't play, but I still felt like I was letting my teammates down,” he said. “Everything was out of my control.”
But as his head cleared and the track and field season grew closer, Cochran regained control and clarity. He had a tough college choice between Cal and Oregon and chose Berkeley on a full ride.
“Both have great history and facilities,” Cochran said. “I just made a real good connection with (weights) coach (John Dagata). I feel like we’ll work great together.”
Once he signed on Feb. 1, it was all full speed ahead for the personable 17-year-old who represented the U.S. World Junior Team in Barcelona last summer. He made friends in Spain with such national prep track and field standouts as Braheme Days (Bridgeton, N.J.,
shot putter), Ronald Darby (Potomac-Oxon Hill, Md.
, sprinter) and Trinity Wilson (St. Mary's-Berkeley, Calif.,
“That’s a big reason I love the sport is meeting new people and making friends with people who share the same love and passion for the sport,” Cochran said.
Cochran didn’t know a thing about the sport until his sophomore season, when Ciarelli, a football coach, introduced him to it. Cochran had just played competitive tackle football for the first time as a freshman, so doors opened at a rapid pace. He took advantage at every turn.
A quick learner and superb natural athlete with long arms, Cochran was a natural for the weights. He prefers the discus – “there’s something about it that somehow relaxes me,” he said. “It’s just fun to throw” – but the shot put is growing on him.
His goal is to not only break Taylor’s school discus record, but the state mark which is only 4 inches longer at 213-11. He’d like to get to 65-0 in the shot as well.
“I feel like everything is aligned,” Cochran said. “Now it’s just up to me to get it done.” E-mail Mitch Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org.