At first, it was all about football. A big kid in the sixth grade who played Pop Warner football, a friend of Mason Ellis’ father suggested that the kid start throwing the shot put and discus to keep in shape for football.
“I went out and fell in love with both the shot and discus,” said Ellis, who joined Lights Out Track & Field Club while he was at Flat Rock Middle School.
One year in, he had his first All-American honors in AAU Junior Olympics track.
“That’s when I knew I wanted to do something with it,” he said.
Ellis was so in love with track’s two big throwing events — and so good at them — that he gave up football after his freshman year. Football’s loss was track and field’s gain.
“Throwing is one of the things where you can’t debate about who’s better; it’s how far you throw,” said Ellis, who has grown up to 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds. “I enjoy doing it so much; it’s not like dreading going to football practice every day. It’s always exciting to come out and do it.”
Ellis, now a 16-year-old junior at West Forsyth, finished sixth among high school shot putters at the prestigious Penn Relays in Philadelphia earlier this spring and is already attracting plenty of attention from college track coaches. He won the shot put at the NCHSAA Class 4-A state indoor championships this past winter and finished second in the discus and fourth in the shot at the Class 4-A state outdoor championships last week.
He has already thrown personal records of 172feet, 10 inches in the discus and 60 feet, 3½ inches in the shot put — the latter West Forsyth’s school record.
“My sophomore year, I went from 146 to 167 (feet) in the discus, and 50-foot-7½ to 56-foot-7 in the shot,” he said. “I just really paid more attention to technique; I grew a lot that year, and I got used to my size.”
Ellis lifts weights five days a week with personal trainer Travis Mash at his gym in Lewisville, working on four-week workout programs that Mash designs to improve Ellis’s strength and his explosiveness. He has set goals of a 65-foot shot put this year and a 70-foot shot put before he graduates from West Forsyth.
Jeff Thompson, who coaches the Titans’ boys track team, said there was no mistaking Ellis’ talent and potential the first day he showed up for practice.
“It was obvious that he was going to be the real deal,” Thompson said. “He had good footwork and balance, and he was strong.”