Josh Sobota's performance Thursday morning at the TSSAA Division-I Large Schools State Championship seemed more like a victory lap than a competition.
Sobota's first throw in the qualifying portion of both the shot put and discus were good enough to secure the titles, giving him the chance to set his sights on breaking records.
The Bearden senior won the shot put with a throw of 65-feet-1 ¾ and his toss of 191-feet-2 in the discus broke his own championship meet record that he set last year as he won back-to-back titles in each event.
"I was really focused on my own personal goals and hitting my distances more than winning," Sobota said. "I wanted to throw 200 feet in discus and 68 in shot. I didn't get there, but overall I'm really happy with my performance."
Sobota - who is currently ranked fourth nationally in the shot put and sixth in discus - can now shift his full focus to challenging for the top ranking.
"Right now I'm just focused on my national competitors," said Sobota. "My ranking is decent, but I feel like, actually I know I can get to the top and I'm just thinking about those distances I need to get me there."
Sobota will throw for the University of Kentucky in the fall, and his results Thursday are a good indication that he will be an immediate name to watch in SEC competition. His championship-winning throws would have been good enough to place third in both events at the SEC Outdoor Championships just a week and a half ago.
Bearden throwing coach Sarah Canter - who also threw for Bearden during her prep days and is in her fifth year coaching - was more than just a bystander during the competition as she bounced around the coach's area, truly invested in each of Sobota's throws.
"It's honestly amazing to watch how he's grown over the four years," Canter said just after posing for pictures on the podium with Sobota. "I know he's destined for greatness, but one thing I hope I've passed on is to always have fun. I know that he's an amazing thrower, but you have to always remember to have fun."
Sobota won't take any time off after this meet. He was recently invited to an elite throwing camp in Idaho, where he will be one of only three throwers invited in each event. He also understands that there is always room for improvement, no matter how successful he's been in the past.
"I feel really good about my technique right now," Sobota said. "I'm fairly tall, but I have a leaner body than most, and I feel like I've done a good job of making the most with what I have right now. But I am hoping to put on more muscle mass and I could definitely be a little more explosive and use my legs more."
Canter knows that Sobota's ability to throw has never been in question, so she has focused on his mental preparation at meets as well.
"When we're at meets I just try to help him get out of his head," Canter said. "Just get out of your head and do what you do. He knows how to throw and the technique, it's just about doing it."
Sobota had multiple scholarship offers, including a few from west coast schools. Ultimately, his decision to throw for Kentucky was as much about being close to family as anything else. His family, who made up a large cheering section during Thursday's competition, is excited about being able to continue to support him from just a few hours away.