Luis Bolanos-Cruz admits his focus was lacking when he competed in the shot put in the Division I state meet last season.
The junior standout for the Central Crossing High School boys track and field team said he underestimated what he could do against the top throwers in the state, but he won't allow that to happen this time.
On Saturday, June 2, at Ohio State, Bolanos-Cruz expects to be standing on the awards podium as one of the top eight finishers.
"Last year, I set my standards too low," he said. "I just wanted to throw over 50 (feet) and I didn't even think about getting a (personal record).
"This year, I know what to expect. It was the first time being there last year and the crowd kind of overwhelms you. This year, I'm much more prepared because I have been there and I'm more focused on placing at state instead of just being there."
This time, Bolanos-Cruz will compete in two events, as he also advanced in the discus from the regional meet at Pickerington North. The top four finishers in both events advanced to state.
Bolanos-Cruz finished second in the discus (154-11) on May 23, but he saved his best for the shot put on May 25. He twice broke his program record of 54-1/4 and finished as runner-up to Big Walnut's Brandon Mosher (56-4 1/4). Bolanos-Cruz threw a 54-1/2 on his final preliminary throw and then had a 55-11 1/4 on his final throw.
His performances in the two events gave the Comets 16 points and a tie for 14th place behind champion Pickerington Central (97) as 41 teams scored.
"The throw I had in the shot (put) is a big confidence-booster," said Bolanos-Cruz, who was fourth in the shot put (51-11 1/2) at regional last year and sixth in the discus (142-4). "I really wanted to make it (to state) in discus. I throw that to take some of the stress off because I just like to watch it fly. It's a fun event for me."
At state last year, Bolanos-Cruz was 16th in the shot put with a throw of 50-10. He competed in the Division I indoor state meet in March and finished ninth with a 52-11 3/4 as Medina's Thomas Supan was eighth with a 53-1 1/4.
"This year, I want to get on the podium," he said. "I was ninth at the indoor state and ever since then I have this feeling in my stomach and it won't go away. I really want to (finish in the top eight and) get on that podium."
Throws coach Sarah Hall said Bolanos-Cruz has been in the right frame of mind over the past few weeks.
"Luis is so much more prepared mentally for state than he was last year," she said. "He has changed his whole mindset in the past few meets. We have been working on staying calmer. In the past, his anxiety would build up. Now we have been working on getting in the ring and letting all of that go at the very end (of the throw)."
Bolanos-Cruz has the seventh-best throw in the 16-athlete shot-put field at state behind No. 1 Michael Shoaf (62-1 1/2) of Rocky River. He's 12th in the discus behind the top regional throw of 196-9 from Canton GlenOak's Andrew White.
"I think the experience of being there in the past will pay dividends," coach Reggie Cannon said. "Last year as a sophomore, he came from a place where he didn't even make the finals in his own district the year before to advancing to the state meet. He kind of had that deer-in-the-headlights look up there even though we went there early so he could see the layout and just go watch. Now he's better prepared for the competition.
"If he stays relaxed and calm, I think he has bigger throws to come. I would not be shocked to see him throw 57 or 58 (in the shot put) or even 170 in discus. He's prepared physically and mentally to succeed."