Donovan Crawford sails to state

Jonah Rosenblum
Record-Courier
Aurora’s Donovan Crawford competes during the boys discus Wednesday night during the Division I Austintown Regional.

AUSTINTOWN — Donovan Crawford could throw the discus in a library.

It would have to be a very large library, of course, given the distances the Aurora senior is throwing these days, but Crawford does so without a sound.

Throwers can get loud. They grunt. They yell. 

Not Crawford.

Not even on Wednesday, when the Walsh University commit had the biggest day of his throwing career, tossing 172 feet, 4 inches at the Division I Austintown Regional to make the Division I state track & field championships.

He only clapped once, when he set the school record with his second throw, a 169-10, breaking a record that had stood since 1977.

"To have my name on the board, that's going to be there for hopefully a long time," Crawford said. "Just it means a lot so it really does feel great. Qualifying for state, it's also a good feeling. [I've] really [been] working for this for two years basically and just waiting for this moment and then now I got it, so it's a really great feeling."

That brief moment in which he clapped after his second throw was it, a rare show of exuberance on a thrilling day in which Crawford grabbed hold of third place early and held it throughout. Otherwise, he never showed any nerves in his Austintown regional debut. As the rain fell and he waited for his second flight to begin, he was remarkably stoic. When he finally got to throw, he was good from the very start.

"I felt pretty comfortable once I got in the circle," Crawford said. "I just trusted the hard work. Obviously, I was a little nervous walking in here, but once again, I feel like I had a whole year to prepare and just really work on my craft, so I feel like that's what really helped get rid of a lot of the nervousness."

That calm has always been there, per Greenmen throwers coach Jenna Schadle.

"Super calm, almost too calm," Schadle said. "Like I always want him to get hyped up, but that's just not the way he is."

Over time, she realized that's just what suited Crawford best.

"I don't think I've ever heard him grunt," Schadle said. "It's just not his character."

Crawford's track and field career began like so many, as a young athlete looking to work on his conditioning. Sure, he had an older sibling who competed in track and field, but Crawford was really in it to get fit for basketball. When he was in seventh grade, Crawford was told he ought to try throwing, which turned out to be a natural fit.

"I was pretty good for my first time throwing and they were like if you keep practicing you can get really good at it," Crawford said. "So I took that word to heart and then I really started working."

Having started at Beachwood, Crawford transferred to Aurora as a sophomore.

"At practice, they just welcomed me with open arms," Crawford said. "Once I told them I was a thrower, [Coach] was like, 'OK, get to it, let's get working.' It was a very smooth transition."

Schadle wasn't his throwing coach then, but she remembered seeing him at a meet his very first year with the Greenmen. He wasn't as strong then and his throws didn't go as far, but his form stood out.

"I saw his form as a sophomore and I said that kid's got something going on," Schadle said. "I knew it. I could tell that he was talented."

Beginning with solid form and rapidly growing stronger, Crawford was expected to break out in 2020, except that season never happened due to COVID-19.

"I was really chasing state right before my junior year," Crawford said. "I always thought I could make it and obviously the season got canceled, so that kind of just fueled me more. I had more time to train, had more time to practice."

When Schadle, who had a prior stint coaching Aurora throwers before taking time off to focus on her children, returned, she saw a thrower who had that same form she had first noticed when he was a sophomore but with far more muscle behind it.

"He got so much stronger the past two years and really, really put on that strength and that speed and his form was still right there and even getting better," Schadle said. "So, at the beginning of the year, I remember telling Coach [Chris] Radtke he's going to break the school record and he's going to go to the state meet."

It has been a relatively smooth journey ever since.

Crawford has consistently thrown over 150 feet every single meet. That consistency was on full display Wednesday when his first three throws all were 164-9 and above.

"His first four throws usually are his best throws, so he does just very minimal warm-up, like one standing throw and one full, where a lot of these kids take six or eight throws to warm up," Schadle said. "He warms up very minimal and he knows when he's ready to go and he does that at practice, too. He knows his limits of when to stop and when to keep going."

On Wednesday, he knew when to get going.

He was as calm as ever.

Except for when he set that school record.

And then he couldn't help but clap.

"After throwing for a little while, I realized you can't be excited or tense up too much or it'll ruin your throw so you got to be nice and calm and relaxed," Crawford said. "So I try to do that as much as I can, so that's why I try not to show too much emotion, but obviously sometimes you got to be happy when you made a good throw."