The whispers began two years ago, but Fort Osage track athlete Asia Cole heard them like sirens running through her head. They came from the stands, echoing in her ears as she stepped into the throwing rings.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
Only a freshman at the time, Cole was already a featured attraction at track meets. She was tall and athletic, yet she moved with surprising ease. After setting school records that spring, Cole came within an eyelash of bringing home the shot put state championship.
A couple of seasons — and two state gold medals — later, Cole doesn’t hear whispers anymore. In fact, she hears nothing at all.
“I can feel silence,” Cole says. “It’s right when I enter the cages. I feel everybody watching me. I look around the stadium, and it seems like everybody’s eyes are staring back at me.”
They often are.
“People start watching and stop talking,” Fort Osage coach J.D. Snead said. “When you’re a track fan, she’s the kind of athlete you don’t get a chance to see often. They don’t want to miss her. It’s kind of like they’re waiting to see what she does next.”
Aren’t we all?
As a sophomore last spring, Cole won the Missouri Class 4 discus and shot put state championships. Her title defense comes this weekend at the Class 4 meet at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. Cole will throw the discus Friday and the shot put Saturday.
If she was hoping to divert attention this time around, that won’t happen after a record-breaking performance last weekend. Cole launched a personal-best shot put throw of 47 feet, 21/2 inches — breaking the Class 4, Sectional 4 mark set by Blue Springs’ Valeyta Althouse in 1992.
Althouse went on to become an Olympian four years later.
Cole has similar career goals, but her coaches insist that she still has more in store for a high school career.
“She’s ready to have an enormous shot (put) throw,” Snead said. “She had a big throw, but she didn’t have the monster throw. It’s still there. It’s coming.”
And to think: This career nearly ended before it found its footing.
Before the pair of state championships and the record-setting throws, Cole quit. Twice.
She was introduced to the shot put and discus as a fifth-grader. And then again in the eighth grade. Each time, she lasted less than a week and promised to never return.
“I hated it,” Cole said. “I literally threw it with anger because I hated it. I would’ve never believed it then, but I love it now.”
The third try stuck — largely because she finally realized she was pretty darn good at it.
College coaches realize it, as well. Snead receives a stack of letters from colleges each week asking about his track star. Cole says she has her sights set on a few, most notably Stanford and Duke.
But first things first. Cole is focused on a crucial two days in Jefferson City.
“I’m about as calm as I’ve ever been,” Cole said. “That’s what worked for me last year. If people talk about me, I’m not going to get too caught up in that.”
And if they don’t speak at all, well, Cole is prepared for that, too.