Fertig’s defense of state title — from frustration to elation

Mark Griffin

Erik Fertig’s emotions went from frustration to elation in less than 24 hours last Friday and Saturday at the Division II state track meet at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
Fertig, a senior at Eastwood and the defending D-II state discus champion, qualified to this year’s meet in the shot put and discus. He kicked off the shot put portion of the meet on Friday and finished 10th with a throw of 52 feet, 5 inches. His personal-best throw this season was 55-8.
“I was shocked how the shot put went,” said Fertig, who took ninth (50-10) in the shot at last year’s state meet. “I didn’t feel nervous. I was excited and ready to compete. After my first throw, I had two (bad) throws and that’s all it takes to miss the finals. Obviously, I was very frustrated, but come Saturday morning I was ready to go. I felt very good.”
Perhaps no one figured Fertig could repeat as the state discus champion, not with the way Genoa senior Noah Koch had been performing the previous three weeks. Koch won the shot put and discus titles at the Northern Buckeye Conference meet and at the district and regional meets prior to last weekend. Fertig repeats as the Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press Co-Athlete of the Year.
“I was not the favorite to win (state),” Fertig said. “I don’t think there was a target on my back. Obviously, Noah was picked to win it. You can’t play defense in track, so you just go out there and do the best you can.”
For his part Koch, who took third place at heavyweight at the state wrestling tournament as a junior and senior, said he was confident heading to state in the shot and discus.
“I felt pretty good about both my events,” he said. “I had a pretty good week of practice.”
Koch placed second in the shot on Friday with a career-best throw of 58-2½, trailing only champion Adam Riedinger of Springfield Northwest’s throw of 59-7½.
“For getting a PR at state, I really can’t complain,” Koch said of Friday’s finish. “Anyone’s goal going down there is to win, so getting second was disappointing. Last year, I didn’t even make it out of the district meet (in the shot), so getting as far as I did this year, I was happy with that.”
The final meeting between Fertig and Koch was set for Saturday. Fertig said he prepared for the discus by getting in some pre-meet workouts with Eastwood coach Brian Sabo in the hotel parking lot Saturday morning.
“I jogged half a mile, stretched and did some power cleans,” Fertig said.
Koch, meanwhile, had by far the best state-qualifying throw at 186-4 - more than 17 feet farther than Fertig (169-3). Koch threw 145-10 to place 10th at last year’s state meet, well behind Fertig’s first-place throw of 161-1.
Fertig’s top three throws last Saturday were 172-6, 173-5 and 173-6, the last of which won him his second straight title. Koch’s first four throws went 155-4, 170-1 and 159-3, with one foul. His final throw of the meet could have given him first place, but he had another foul and finished second.
“It just fell out of my hand as I threw it,” Koch said. “It slipped off and went out of the sector. It has happened maybe a handful of times before. Being my last throw and knowing I didn’t get it done, I was very disappointed. I was trying to be focused and I had everything going through my mind how I was going to throw it, like any other day. It just didn’t happen.”
Fertig watched Koch’s final throw and said he felt “excited” knowing he had just won a second state discus title.
“I knew there wasn’t much of a chance for me to win and I needed to throw my best,” Fertig said. “A lot of things had to work out for me. It’s tough because Noah is a good friend of mine and we’ve competed against each other a lot. I was thrilled to get another state title. For me, this one was so much more fulfilling. My goal wasn’t to go down there to win a state title. You can’t focus on place or what other people throw. I just wanted to go out and do my absolute best. I wanted to PR and that happened, and I was really happy with the way I left.”
Fertig is the second Eastwood boy to win two or more state track and field titles. Justin Welch was a three-time state champion in the discus from 2008-10. Fertig will compete in the hammer throw and study engineering at the University of Louisville. Koch said he plans to throw the shot, discus and hammer at Ashland University.
Genoa had two other boys competitors at the state meet. Senior Christian Pearson placed seventh in the long jump with a jump of 21-3¼. Senior Sean Hoeft took 13th in the 800 in 1:58.4.


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