Finishing ninth in any athletic competition normally would be cause for extreme disappointment. But doing so against much more experienced foes at the U.S. Olympic Trials proved something different for Duke Kicinski.
That’s where the Rhome native and 2014 Justin Northwest High School graduate ended up in late June in Eugene, Oregon. He qualified based on being among the top 24 nationwide in various professional meets. His effort of 58.17 meters fell well short of the three who made the team – Mason Finley (63.07), Reggie Jagers (62.61), and Sam Mattis (62.51).
“Those are guys I see at track meets around the country, and they were on their A-game,” the 25-year-old said. “It just turned out to be the top three older guys making the team.”
“Any time you get your [butt] kicked, it’s a learning experience. While the next Olympics are in three years, next year are the World Championships. So I’ll try to make that team. That’s the most immediate goal.”
Kicinski played football and track in high school and earned a scholarship to play outside linebacker at West Texas A&M University. He played both sports for one year and track for two, winning the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II discus title in 2016 with a throw of 57 meters.
“I was good at both sports but liked track a lot more,” he said. “It felt like it was something I wanted to do past college, and football was something I would not pursue after college.”
Wanting to compete at the Division I level, he transferred to Texas Tech University where he redshirted his first year. In 2018, he threw 59 meters to win the Big 12 Conference championships and placed ninth in the NCAAs. He won NCAA title his senior year at 62 meters, one less than his still personal-best 63 meters.
After earning a degree in kinesiology, he moved to Arizona where he spent a year in private coaching while training under professional shot putter/discus thrower Ryan Whiting. Just before the pandemic began last year, he moved back to Texas to live with his parents.
He’s currently letting a stress reaction in his right foot suffered last October heal while plotting his next move and looking for possible jobs. He also plans to apply to be accepted to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.
“That’s the goal. That would probably be the best place to be for my throwing career,” he said.
photos courtesy of Eric Kicinski