June 28, 2016

Mostly cloudy

College track and field: Kent State Hall to honor Mindy Wirtz

WADSWORTH — It has been more than a decade since Mindy Wirtz pushed the shot put or spun the discus for Kent State University.

The former Medina standout and current Wadsworth resident will be inducted into the school’s Varsity ‘K’ Hall of Fame in September as part of the 36th induction ceremony.

It’s an honor Wirtz had been dreaming about since her graduation from the school in 1996.

“I’d hoped for this, and it’s finally coming full circle for me,” she said. “It’s wonderful and I’m excited. I’m just proud that my kids will be there to see it.”

Wirtz’s two children, Bryant (12) and Evelyn (9), will get to see their mother get inducted during a ceremony Sept. 6 at 10 a.m. at the Kent State Hotel and Conference Center. Wirtz and the other honorees will then be introduced at halftime of the Golden Flashes’ football game against South Alabama.

The two-time Gazette MVP will be a part of an induction class of seven, bringing the Hall of Fame’s total to 291 members since 1979.

Like she did during her two years at Medina after moving from San Jose, California, Wirtz left a benchmark that all Kent State throwers have been striving to beat since she left campus 18 years ago.

“Kent has a tradition of being a throwing school,” said Wirtz, who still holds Kent State’s discus record and is fourth in the shot. “When we threw, people stopped and watched because we were so intense.

“Our coaches never let us throw days before our meets. All we did was drill work, so we would get out there screaming and yelling. People want to watch what’s intense and maybe our coach knew something.”

That intensity was picked up from her family and especially her older brother John, who is still competing in Master’s throws competitions.

So it wasn’t unusual to hear Wirtz as she competed let all that extra energy out.

“It’s probably a family trait because my dad was always competitive and intense,” she said. “Watching my brother, you could always hear him on the other side of the stadium.

“Hey, that’s what makes it go further, right? If you don’t yell, it doesn’t go anywhere.”

Wirtz still is the Medina County record holder in both throwing events with tosses of 46 feet, 4 inches in the shot and 155-9 in the disc. Both came during her senior season.

She carried that momentum to Kent Statem where she was a three-time All-American in the discus — highlighted by a runner-up finish at the 1995 NCAA Championships as a junior. The next season, she was the Mid-American Conference’s Track Athlete of the Year after a 10th-place showing in the shot put.

In all, she was a seven-time MAC champ in the shot put, discus and weight throw. She also had a pair of second-place finishes.

“Making the NCAA Championships my junior year was a truly magical moment,” said Wirtz, who was leading the competition heading into the final throw. “I never felt like I lost that day. I couldn’t have imagined it all coming together at the NCAAs like that.

“Outside of the birth of my children, that was the best moment of my life.”

Her son, Bryant, continued the family legacy this spring when he threw for Wadsworth’s middle school team.

While Mindy is not sure he will continue down the same path, she still loves watching athletes compete.

“I coach him a little bit, but I’m not going to push him,” Wirtz said. “He likes it, be he’s a really good pitcher and I don’t think he will give that up.”

Wirtz also has been keeping tabs on some of the current Medina throwers, and while her longstanding records in both disciplines may in jeopardy, she hopes Carolyn Wilder and McKenzie Moran are having as much fun as she did — and yelling as loud as possible.

“I hope one of them can break the records,” Wirtz said. “I wish them all the best.”

Contact Dan Brown at sports@medina-gazette.com.