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Trinity senior Jake Brenza earned a PIAA Class AA silver medal in the shot put and a state gold medal in the discus this season. Michael Bupp/The Sentinel

This past winter, most of the area's top senior track and field athletes were busy improving their techniques during the indoor season. Runners, throwers and jumpers were getting a feel for the competition they likely would see during the outdoor postseason and were preparing themselves for their final high school year.

Jake Brenza, meanwhile, was on the ice.

It's where the Trinity senior spent large portions of his childhood. Since age 5, Brenza played ice hockey and, while in high school, he provided his team in the Central Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League with a reliable goalkeeper.

Hockey is the sport Brenza began with. But it's not the one he'll end up with.

Brenza, who doubled as a shot put and discus thrower at Trinity High School, was nearly cut from the track and field team early in his high school career because he was spending too much time on the rink and not enough time in the field. His coaches were convinced that, given the right amount of commitment to his throws, Brenza could go places.

Ultimately, the Shamrocks thrower was convinced as well. Brenza put in the hard work. He recruited Glenn Thompson - a former USATF championships qualifier he met at a Shippensburg University summer camp following his freshman season - as a personal trainer.

And in the end, the commitment paid off. The Sentinel's Male Track and Field Athlete of the Year earned a gold and a silver medal at the PIAA Class AA Championships this May and was a major player in the Shamrocks' successful pursuit of Trinity's first-ever state track title.

"I've been playing ice hockey since I was 5, longer than I've done track," Brenza said. "I kind of knew I was done with ice hockey after (this past) season.

"I was almost cut from the track team my freshman year because I went to hockey too much. The summer after my sophomore year, I started going real serious with track. I noticed hockey was going by the wayside."

Brenza said he felt the two throws came naturally for him. He picked up on the technique quickly - not surprising for an Ivy League recruit who intends to major in bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania next year - and his improvement over the years has been dramatic. Brenza, who didn't qualify for the District 3-AA Championships his freshman year, steadily improved his medal count each year, culminating in a pair of district gold medals this season.

"He worked real hard," Trinity head track and field coach Sam Turpin said. "He just started to work on the spin for the shot (before the just-concluded season).

"(Brenza) just wasn't comfortable with it to do anything during last season. He got very comfortable with it over the summer. But he's still not anywhere near his potential."

Given his progression thus far, Brenza's potential is hard to imagine. With respect to his district championship throws over the last three seasons, the Trinity standout has added nearly 10 feet to his shot put and over 30 to his discus. His discus throw of over 170 feet in the Mid-Penn Championships this year was a state best at the time, regardless of class, and by season's end, he held the best shot put in the state at 58-7 3/4.

"When Jake makes a commitment, he totally commits," Turpin said. "He's also a goalie for the hockey team; that gives you strength in your legs. He's got some very strong legs. That's one of the areas (our coaching staff) worked on with him - his upper-body strength. If he can get (his upper and lower body) to balance, he could add another 10 feet to his (shot put) throws."

Brenza has never been one to obsess over goals. Though he's a committed competitor who puts in hard work to improve, it's not all about numbers and charts for him. Heading into the Division I college scene, the Trinity standout really just wants to add as much distance to his throws as he can.

"I definitely want to gain as much muscle as I can," he said. "Beside that, there's a couple numbers I'd like to hit but no huge goals.

"It wasn't until my senior year when I set some goals. Most of it was, I wanted to see how it went and try as hard as I could."

At around 5 feet 10 inches tall, Brenza is considered small for a thrower. However, when presented with new challenges at Penn, his ambitions are great.

"I'm thinking of doing the shot, discus and hammer throw (in college)," Brenza said. "I remember going to (summer) camp, and (the hammer throw) was something I got right away. I'm hoping to have a real good hammer coach (at Penn) that loves it a lot, so I can get better at that.

"I'm definitely looking forward to having more serious competition."

First Team

Sam Flower, jr., Red Land

Robert Bales, sr., Boiling Springs

Eric Elgin, sr., Cumberland Valley

Josh Nesmith, jr., Bible Baptist

Seth Robbins, sr., Cumberland Valley

Reggie Oberton, jr., Carlisle

Kelton Mehls, sr., Northern

Ben Sourbeer, sr., West Perry

Tommy Gruschow, jr., Trinity

Matt Steele, jr., Mechanicsburg

Natimi Black-Heaven, sr., Trinity

Ken Murphy, sr., Cumberland Valley

John Pope, sr., Carlisle

Kyle Matherne, sr., Camp Hill


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