Hempfield throwers Norris, Gera have big goals this season

Saturday, April 10, 2021 | 5:40 PM

When the PIAA holds its track and field championship May 28 and 29 at Shippensburg, it should come as no surprise that two Hempfield throwers are favorites to win gold medals.

Seniors Dan Norris and Bella Gera have the best discus throws in the state by a big margin — and this is early in the season — and both are in the top 10 in the country. Norris is ranked sixth in the country, and Gera is third. Both hope bigger throws will come later in the season.

The duo is part of a long list of excellent throwers that were developed by coach Dave Murray over the past 20 years. Hempfield has had numerous placewinners and champions indoor and outdoor over the years.

“I don’t want them peaking too early,” Murray said after Wednesday’s meet during which the pair unleashed huge throws. “We’re still doing some heavy lifting. I knew they had it in them, and I’m hoping they will do much better.

“I’ve been blessed with kids who work hard in weight room, in the circle and who are very coachable. It’s also tradition. Everyone wants to be the next great thrower.”

And Murray already is grooming the next group.

Norris launched the second-best throw in school history, 190 feet, 2 inches, in a meet April 7 against Penn-Trafford. Max Adams, a state champion, owns the school mark of 198-3 in 2014.

“I think the other two throws I had on Wednesday were also PRs,” Norris said. “It was a good day.”

Gera broke her own school record in the discus with a toss of 161-6. She had thrown 156-2 in the first meet of the season to break MacKenna Orie’s mark of 153-11. Gera now has her eye on the state record of 168-11 set in 1984 by Greensburg Central Catholic’s Colleen Rosensteel.

Norris also would like to break the school record in the discus and shot put. His best throw in the shot put is 58 feet. The school record is 63-0.

“His technique is flawless in the discus,” Murray said. “He and Bella really work hard. I have to chase them away from practice, or they’d throw all night.”

Norris, a Southern Illinois commit, said he is surprised how far he has advanced since his freshman season.

“I was not sure how far I’d throw when I got here,” Norris said. “I’m 160 pounds, but coach Murray kept pushing me. Now I’m 220 pounds.

“I was hoping to get 10 more feet in the discus and either 5 or 6 feet in the shot. I can do it, but have to keep it up in the weight room and keep going after it. I want to throw further.”

Both said they have blossomed under Murray tutelage.

Murray said neither let the coronavirus stop them from honing their craft over the summer. They competed when they could and continued to work on their own.

Gera has recently benched 200 pounds 10 times, and Norris has done 305 pounds seven times.

“To be mentioned with some of the best to ever throw here is neat,” Norris said. “It’s an honor. There have been some huge names: Weston Banks, Max Adams, MacKenna Orie, and Hayden Fox in javelin and pole vault.”

Norris qualified for states in 2019 in the shot put. He finished ninth in the WPIAL with a throw of 132-3, but he reached the 140s earlier in the season. There was no 2020 season because of the coronavirus.

“It was an experience as a sophomore,” Norris said. “There was more pressure on me then than there is now. That experience will help me as I prepare for the rest of the season.

“The difference for me now is technique, speed and strength. Coach Murray is always pushing us to be better.”

Gera, who has earned a scholarship to Wake Forest, didn’t start throwing until her sophomore season. She was injured her freshman year. She competed in the discus at states in 2019 and had a PR of 121-10 to finish 10th.

Murray said he saw a lot of potential in Gera her sophomore season.

“I’m pretty happy with the season so far,” Gera said. “I was able to compete some last summer. They were good warm ups for this season.

“Dan and I are both starting off strong. We’re still in heavy lifting, so we still have so much more potential. I’m excited about states when we’re doing more speed work and lighter weights and we’ll be able to sling it a lot farther.”

Gera’s goal is to break the state record.

“We both have high hopes,” she said.

Said Murray: “If you look at girls discus, we’ve won a lot of WPIAL titles. You have to have the right kids. We have kids that want to be good and are passionate and love to throw.”

While Norris and Gera are searching for gold medals, there are numerous others whom Murray said will carve out their own niche before they are done.

The future stars include Liz Tapper, Murray’s son Peyton, Gera’s brother, J.P., Brooke Bomer and Bekah Ostrosky.

“They all have a lot of potential,” Murray said of the young throwers. “Hopefully, that will continue.”

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.


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