CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Excellence hardly eludes Poca senior Christian Buckley, a two-time double-winner at the West Virginia high school track and field state championships, though the Dot thrower recently added an honor seldom awarded to a non-runner.
Buckley, named the Gatorade West Virginia Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year, holds the attention of competitors and fans when he throws, whether the shot put or discus, and for his accomplishments, he was tabbed with the esteemed distinction. On the girls side, University graduate and West Virginia commit Amelia “Millie” Paladino claimed the award after sweeping the AAA distance running events with three meet records.
“It feels like a huge honor,” Buckley said. “I’m blessed with awards like that. It’s nice for a thrower to get it. I know a lot of runners have gotten it in the past, so it’s nice to shine a light on the throwing events and be sort of an ambassador for the throwers.”
For the second year in a row, Buckley won titles in the shot and discus at the Class AA state meet. As a junior, Buckley set a meet record in the shot with a throw of 59 feet, 7 and one-half inches, which ranked as the nation’s 74th-best performance among prep competitors in 2014 at the time of his selection, according to a release provided by Gatorade.
During the regular season, Buckley dominated his competition en route to his second consecutive undefeated season, and he continued to display his excellence at the state meet. After Buckley, the next longest toss at the state championships in the shot was 11 feet shorter than Buckley’s. In the discus, Buckley surpassed his closest competitor by nearly 25 feet.
Buckley, listed at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, posted similar dominance as a sophomore at the state meet, yet increased his title-winning throws by 8 and 15 feet respectively as a junior. Competitors fail to match not just the distance of his throws, but his work ethic, Dots coach John Bonecutter said.
“Christian is an extremely hard-working young man,” Bonecutter said. “He is self-motivated, self-disciplined and very competitive. His level of dedication is unmatched. He is hungry for success and focused on what it takes to get to the top. He is a beast!”
While the high school season finished in May, Buckley continues to toil in the summer, competing with the hopes to once again reach the USATF National Junior Olympics Track & Field Championships in Houston, Texas. Buckley was previously named a two-time All-American in the discus.
Buckley benefits from retaining the Dots’ throwing coach, his father Dana Buckley, at his disposal during the summer.
“I can say ‘Hey, Dad, I want to throw some,’ and he’s willing to go out there and watch me,” Christian Buckley said. “Like I said, I’m just blessed with that kind of setup. He can give me pointers and watch me at any time during the day and spot me in the weight room, whatever I need.”
As Dana Buckley guides his son to greater heights, Christian Buckley makes the most of his improvement through reviewing tape and honing his technique.
“He constantly studies film,” Dana Buckley said. “He’s one of those that he just works at it to the nth degree. Every detail, he breaks down each throw that we record. A lot of it is just body position, timing and then he goes back and works on that one specific thing.”
In addition to his athletic performance, Gatorade selected Christian Buckley for his academic prowess, as the honor is annually given to the athlete who combines athletic excellence with classroom achievement and exemplary character.
“He was very humbled by the award,” Dana Buckley said. “Really, that was not one of the goals heading into the season, but it definitely capped the season for him.”
Christian Buckley said he was flattered by the honor as he continues to push himself to greater achievements and hopes others take an interest in an event often overlooked.
“I’m blessed they looked at me,” he said. “It’s just nice. A lot of people tend to — I wouldn’t say to ignore the throws, but maybe push them over to the side a little bit, and it’s nice to shine a spotlight on it and make others take notice, and hopefully make other people interested in the sport.”