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A virtual champion

Cody Burk wins VTM discus title


John Hamilton

BLUE HAWK JUNIOR Cody Burk, pictured throwing in the 2019 State B met in Kalispell, has won the 2020 State discus championship in the recently completed Virtual Track Montana competition held on Facebook. See story for details on Burk's home-based spring track and field season.

If it can't be real, at least it can be virtual.

Cody Burk, denied his high school junior year of track and field competition in Thompson Falls due to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, has found another outlet for his shot put and discus throwing and is, in fact, now a virtual state champion as a result.

Tapping into a virtual track and field program started on Facebook by a Three Forks sophomore athlete earlier this spring, Burk recently won the Virtual Track Montana (VTM) state championship in the discus and finished second in the shot put.

"We heard about a student in Three Forks who didn't want to lose a year," Burk said. "She invited kids from around the state to join in on this program she had started. Also not wanting to miss an entire year of competition, I decided to join."

Matching his marks with several other competitors from all MHSA classifications from around the state, Burk went to Noxon recently (the Thompson Falls facilities were unavailable) and flung the discus a lifetime best distance of 147 feet, 3 inches to win the inaugural VTM State title in the event.

Moving over to the Jenny Lampshire Memorial Field shot put pit, Burk pushed the steel ball 43 feet, 9 inches to place second in that event. He said the medals he earned from the event were in the mail to Thompson Falls as of this writing.

Burk said he tried using the throwing venues at Previs Field in Thompson Falls for his virtual competition first but was turned back. "We were told the campus was closed," he said. "So we called Noxon and they allowed us to use their field."

As required by VTM guidelines, Burk's marks were measured by an independent third party – Burk used his off-duty high school throwing coach Jake Susic and his grandfather Ron Paulsen in that role at different times this spring – and signed off on as legitimate results by that observer.

Unlike so many other prep athletes in Montana this spring, Burk was able to see measurable improvement during his virtual track and field season. His winning effort in the discus was over 11 feet farther than he had thrown it in winning sixth place in the 2019 State B meet. He says he has consistently been throwing in the 140-foot range this spring but that the 147-3 throw felt special coming out of his hand.

"I wish that would have been at the State B meet," he said wistfully, "but it is what it is this year."

Hoping to throw well enough to attract the interest of college track and field coaches, Burk said he practiced alone, off-campus this spring, working on his discus and shot put technique off a cement pad near his family's home. He is glad this is 2020 and not 2021.

"I am very happy that this was not my senior year," he said. "It was bad enough missing this season, I am really hoping that things will be back to normal next year."

Although there were not a lot of competitors in the Virtual Track Montana's inaugural season this spring, it was a welcome diversion for those that did participate, and the program would undoubtedly grow larger in 2021 if sports seasons are still banned in Montana come next spring.


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