Benjamin Shue Is Looking For Another Chance To Prove Himself

* Benjamin Shue holds a discus outside Bergen Catholic High School in 2022

Anne-Marie Caruso/Bergen Record via USA Today Sports

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Benjamin Shue's last meet of the outdoor season will come at a good time. 

That's because the Bergen Catholic (NJ) rising junior, 17, says he feeling the most healthy he's been so far this season, perhaps a week or so removed from the strain that affected his abductor muscle. 

"I'm finally feeling better," he said recently. 

That's good news since he's entered at the USATF U20 Championships in the shot put and discus, where he's among the contenders hoping to gain a spot on the U.S. U20 team in Puerto Rico in August.

The qualifying meet for the Pan American U20 Championships is set to be held in Eugene, Oregon from July 6-9. The top two throwers in each event will qualify for the U.S. junior team, pending successful team processing. 

While Shue, a three-sport athlete who competes in football, wrestling and track at Bergen Catholic, still may be the youngest thrower entered in the field, he still believes in his chances. 

"This year I would love to (qualify)," he said. 

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One key difference here will be the change in implement size, with Shue and other high school throwers going from the 5.5 kilogram high school shot put (12 pounds) to the 6kg weight meant for U20 athletes. 

In the discus, which is his preferred event, he moves up from 1.6 kg to 1.75 kg. 

"I have been training with both to get strength," the 6-foot-2, 250-pound athlete said. "I want to keep my speed with throwing the lighter one." 

If anyone can do it, it just might be Shue. 

The high school sophomore, who sometimes sports Pit Viper sunglasses before competition, once again broke a sophomore class record in the discus this spring, tossing a career best mark of 200 feet, 10 inches on May 4 at the Big North Championships.

The U.S. No. 7 mark followed a freshman campaign where he also set a class record in the event -- a performance that was a big deal.

When you consider that Shue came into the track and field season beat up from a wrestling campaign that saw him reach the NJSIAA state semifinals, perhaps there's hope that his best throws are still ahead of him. 

Shue threw over 190 feet a total of seven times, including in two runner-up finishes at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions and at New Balance Nationals Outdoor.

What's more, he believes he knows how to unlock even more gains.

Recently, Shue said, he changed the position of his release, which led to a big mark in June. He even bombed a 205-foot throw that landed out of the sector. 

"I hadn't had a great release angle," he said of his third-to-last meet in New Jersey. "I raised it up, so it was above my shoulder. When I came through, I had a better angle." 

Shue's certainly making strides in the circle with the discus, which he's been throwing since 2018. But fast approaching? That would be the shot put. 

Shue added nearly four feet to his best throw from 2022 to 2023 and was light years ahead of his 57-9.75 mark over the indoor season, where he finished outside All-American status at New Balance Nationals Indoor. 

That result drove him nuts -- even if it was due to his dueling responsibilities in wrestling and football. It may have led to that 64-foot career best mark in May at the Bergen County Meet of Champions. The throw was the third-best mark in New Jersey, but it was also the second-best sophomore throw in the state all-time, too. It's also currently the nation's top sophomore mark. 

Shue won't claim to be the nation's best shot put thrower. But his technique as a rotational thrower is coming together, and his work is paying off there, too. 

"I've gotten stronger in general," he said. "The beginning of the year, I had a static start. My foot turned out. I couldn't get a good window. But I PR'ed at Arcadia at 63. I have been making strides." 

Then again, the championship schedule will give him no ease. 

The men's U20 shot put and discus are both set for Saturday, July 8, and they are separated by just three hours. 

Shue says he's been preparing by training with the schedule in mind. His father, Bill, a body-builder and former thrower at Albright College, has put him through the gauntlet. Shot put and discus training have come on the same day, separated by just an hour. He makes six throws, then moves on ...just like competition. 

When you add on top of that his work in the weight room, which has seen Shue go after big weight -- progressive overloads these last few weeks, with weight on the bench press now topping 300 pounds -- then maybe the transition to the heavier implements may not make such a difference. 

Of course, Shue has been here before.

A year ago, in fact, he competed in his first junior championship. 

The result didn't go his way, as Shue finished one spot outside the finals, launching a best of 169-1 on his first throw, but as these things go, the valuable lesson was the experience afforded to him. 

The memorable moments came off the track. 

It was at a small gathering near his hotel in Eugene, he said, where he was able to meet Joe Kovacs, one of the World's elite throwers and a two-time World Champion and Olympic silver medalist. Kovacs is from Pennsylvania, like Shue's father Bill. 

"He knew who I was," Shue said. "He knew I was the freshmen thrower." 

It stands to reason that Shue will bottle all of those lessons into his next foray at the junior championships. The New Jersey standout knows his previous bests won't cut it. 

"Last year I wasn't really ready," Shue said. "I feel more confident this year." 

Photo Credit: Ann-Marie Caruso/Bergen Record via USA Today