Dominik Kosar was taking a tour of the St. Joe's campus last summer when a photo hanging in a hallway of a past track athlete throwing the shot put caught his eye.
"That's bad form," the new arrival fresh off the plane from the Czech Republic said in broken English. Once you've mastered good form, bad form isn't a pretty picture.
Kosar is a chiseled 6-foot-7, 240-pounder with a wing span that could rival the plane he arrived here on. He's gregarious, outgoing, and when it comes to barbecue chicken wings, he can't only eat one. He's spending his junior year, and likely his senior year of high school, at the Kenmore Avenue institute living with a host family. He keeps in touch with his Czech family through Skype.
While his distances in the shot and discus improve, so has his English. "I know it was pretty tough the first two weeks. I just was looking around like 'what's going on? I don't understand these people,' " said Kosar. "They talk really fast. I listened and watched movies and spent lot of time with the translator."
Kosar will be among seven athletes who will represent the Monsignor Martin Association at this week's New York State Track and Field Federation Championship at Cicero-North Syracuse.
Kosar has compiled an impressive resume in his short stay here. He won the indoor Catholic state champion in the shot and the outdoor Catholic state champion in the shot and discus. He leads WNY in both events with a 56-11 in the shot and a 172-10 in the discus.
At the Royal Comet Invitational in Rush-Henrietta, he broke school and meet record in the discus with the 172-10. The previous record of 172-9 had been held since 1985 by Rob Luparello.
He's currently ranked No. 3 in the state in the shot and No. 4 in the discus. His toughest competition at states is expected to be senior A.J. Wolf of Hackley, who is currently ranked No. 1 in both events.
"He [Kosar] is like [Rob] Gronkowski, he's a big athlete, tall, flexible and very athletic," said St. Joe's throws coach Izeal Bullock. "He's a great kid to work with. He comes from four years of training in the Czech Republic where track is like American football there. He's never been a part of a high school team, he's always trained in stadiums in the Czech."
During the summer when he was 15, Kosar spent two months training in Las Vegas with former Olympic discus thrower John Powell to prepare for the upcoming age-group World Championships in France. He finished 10th in the world in his age group, his best throw a 185-0. "He taught me about everything, technique, he learned me balance, speed, endurance," said Kosar.
It was his father, along with a St. Joe's alumnus, who helped bring Kosar to the U.S.
Chris Graham, a 1988 graduate and an engineer, was working on a long term project in the Czech Republic. In his spare time he began coaching an American youth football team. Kosar's father also coached a team in the same league and the two became friends.
Kosar's father's business as a sporting goods salesman brought him to the United States. Knowing Graham, he began calling on clients in Western New York. He fell in love with the city and even got to meet former Buffalo Sabres goaltender, Dominik Hasek, whom he could converse with in Czech.
When Kosar was about 15, he began throwing very well and his father began to explore the possibility of sending his son the the United States for high school and hopefully college. Naturally, Graham recommended his alma mater.
Kosar will compete in the shot and discus while Canisius' Ryan Hunter will join him in the Division I discus. The only MMA boy to make it in a running event is junior Lawrence Williams of St. Joe's in the 400.
DIVISION I BOYS: Sweet Home senior Wayne Gordon has only run the 100 meters three times this season, but that won't stop him from running it at states. He's also in the 200 and will anchor the 4x100 relay.
"Conceivably he could have eight races, and that was our concern, but we hope his strength will get him through it," said coach Brian Lombardo. "He was the state runner-up in the 55 so who's to say, even though the 200 is his best race, there's the thought he could win the 100."
Junior Kalen Sullivan of West Seneca West hopes to race senior Tyler Scheving of Barker in the 800 meters. They are in different Divisions, but still may run in the same race. "I always want to race him. I talk to him all the time on Facebook. 'What meet are you going to be at man, I want to race you.' I raced him my sophomore year and ran my PR, so I'm hoping if we meet up again, I can PR."
Sullivan, who has a season best 1:56.10, is going after the school record of 1:55.41 held since 2007 by Chris Moonan.
Lake Shore sophomore T.J. Hornberger is undefeated in the 1,600 and 3,200 going into states. "I'm hoping to get sub 4:20 at least and maybe a 9:15 in the 3,200," he said.
Senior Marcus Lobdell of Kenmore West was the state runner-up in the pentathlon last year, so he feels he has a real shot at a title this year. "From personal experience I know exactly how important that mile is and I'm going to have to work on it," he said.
DIVISION II BOYS: Barker's Scheving, a senior, is the Division II defending state champion in the 800 meters. "The only pressure I feel is self-inflicted pressure," he said. "I'm all set for college [UB]. I just have such high goals for myself. And when I don't hit those goals, I sort of beat up on myself. It pushes me to work harder because no one likes to fail."
Mike Prevorse of Pioneer will be among the favorites in the shot put and discus. He said at Sectionals he'll have to add 10 feet onto his best discus throw to have a shot at states. "It's there. I have the potential for it," he said.
Senior Daryl Spencer of Cleveland Hill will run both hurdles. He was third last year in both events. "I have a definite shot at this. It's going to take a lot of determination," he said.
East Aurora's 4x800 relay qualified for states for a fourth year in a row. Not only is the team experienced, they will all be fresh as none are running an individual event. Junior Brendan Keany, senior Elliott Martynkiewicz, senior Larkin Bohanan and junior Sean Phillips look to finish among the top three and break 8 minutes.
Sophomore Corey Wefing of Maple Grove, coming off a stirring win at Sectionals, and Nate Smith of Pioneer should medal in the 3,200.
Senior Jeff Green of Southwestern could be a contender in the pole vault.
Randolph qualified both its 4x100 and 4x400 relays. It will be a tough double to run having to run both on Friday without a lot of rest in between.
Senior Tyler Plaud is the first Olean sprinter since Nick Weatherby to qualify for states. Plaud was not the top seed at sectionals, but still pulled out a win. "There's going to be kids who are probably faster, but on any given day, what you do is never count yourself out," said Olean coach Paul Ksionzyk.
DIVISION I GIRLS: Kailyn Arcury of Williamsville South is the defending state champion in the 100 hurdles.
Junior Jenn Thill of Lancaster could also win as she leads the state in the pole vault at 12-2.
Sweet Home senior Stephanie Izard is going after the Section record in the pentathlon. It could come down to the final event, the 800 meters. The Section record of 3,614 points has been held since 2005 by Alyissa Hasan of Williamsville South. Izard scored 3,522 points at the indoor track nationals.
Kala Allen of Williamsville East will be running in her fifth state meet. She is the WNY leader in the 100, 200, 400. She will run the 200 and 400 at states. "For states I'm going to have a lot of competition, so I'm hoping to get under 54 seconds, and maybe even try for the state title. I got a good seed time in last week at ECICs so I should be in lane three or five," she said.
Lockport will be represented by junior Keeley Ralyea in the discus.
DIVISION II GIRLS: It's the last state meet for senior jumper Kaitlyn Lopez of Immaculata, who is going to Penn State, where she is an active recruit. She has a season best 39-1 1/2 in triple jump and an 18-6 1/2 in the long jump. At last year's meet she was second in the triple.
"Penn State has a squad that's unbelievable, but Kaitlyn will fit right in," said coach Charlie Planz. "What she has done, teaching the younger girls, the way she works with them, she's such a clinician. It's going to be a big loss next year."
At last month's Catholic State meet Lopez won the title in the long jump and was runner-up in the triple. Earlier this season, she led the Bears to their third consecutive Monsignor Martin Association title.
Lopez will also anchor Immaculata's 4x100 relay which includes Francis Bull, senior Erin Sendor and sophomore Samantha Grosso and has a 51.3 seed time.
Sophomore Christina Walter of Maple Grove and Malayah White of Mount St. Mary are two sprinters to watch for in the 100 and 200 meters.
Mckenna Maycock wraps up an impressive freshman season at Randolph going for gold in the pentathlon. Her volleyball team was state runner-up in the fall and her basketball team also reached the state final four.
Jennie Thies of Southwestern looks to contend for a medal in the long and triple jump.
The state meet will be a great experience for Fredonia freshman Lauren Reyda in the 1,500 and 3,000.
East Aurora qualified six, including sophomore Marta McLaughlin in the 800 and the 4x400 and 4x800.