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Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Determination guided Braun to state title

Last Curtain Call

By Robb Hemmelgarn
As a high school freshman in the mid-1970s, St. Henry's Tim Braun was stuck with a perplexing dilemma prior to launching his track and field career.
Uncertain of which events to specialize in, Braun submitted himself to a battery of speed, endurance and strength analysis conducted by Redskins' head coach Gary Bertoline.
"Early that spring, Tim thought he wanted to be a distance runner, so I had him run for me," recalled Bertoline, with a tinge of doubt in his explanation. "When he finished, I glanced at the stop watch and told Tim that he better concentrate on something else."
Braun wholeheartedly agreed.
"I remember getting timed for that, and when I was finished coach Bertoline shook his head and said that he needed a calendar to calculate my exact time," he chuckled. "From there, I knew I had to look for something else to focus on during track."
Determined, Braun drifted toward the stronger and heavier guys on the team, and he almost immediately fell in love with the discus ring. Although his accomplishments were minimal during his rookie spring in the event, Braun's improvements began to unfold as a sophomore.
"I started lifting weights in our basement after my freshman year and any day that there wasn't snow on the ground, I was outside throwing," Braun commented. "We lived about a block from the backside of the high school, and there was a concrete pad with a throwing circle on it. I walked there a couple of times a day and practiced. I was also in football at the time and decided that I needed to concentrate on track. Coach (Gordon) Shivley was the head football coach at the time and I told him that I was going to stop playing football. I explained to him that my heart just wasn't in it and that I needed to practice the discus. He asked how far I was throwing and I told him around 90 feet. Then he asked what it took to win state and I responded about 160 feet or so. He pointed out the 70-foot difference, and I explained to him that was why I needed to quit football and concentrate on discus!"
Through his junior year Braun gradually elbowed his way toward the top of the throwing events in the Midwest Athletic Conference, and although he failed to advance to state, he feels the premature exit from the postseason set the table for the following year.
"I broke our school record at sectional that season, and the districts were at Bowling Green High School," Braun pointed out. "There was one throw which I felt would have qualified me to state, but it was a foul. After the meet I was down on myself because normally I didn't get nervous, and I knew I only had one year left. I went out the very next day and started practicing. My goal as a senior was to either win every meet I was in or break the meet record."
As a senior in the spring of 1979, the 6-1, 210-pound Braun became the king of every discus ring he spun in. At the conclusion of the regular season Braun, who at this point earned the nickname "The Incredible Hulk", captured the Midwest Athletic Conference crown with a league-record throw of 167 feet, 9 inches. The next week, he bagged first place at the St. Marys sectional with a loft of 153-1, edging Marion Local's Gary Moeller for the championship.
Although Braun's distance deflated for the second meet in a row seven days later at the district meet at Ohio Northern University, his toss of 150-3 was still enough for first place as well as the coveted excursion to Columbus.
Although it was concerning that he failed to break the 160-feet mark in nearly a month, Braun remained focused and unleashed his second throw of the day which eventually came to rest 163 feet and 3 inches away. The attempt was the best of the Class A field heading into the finals, but that didn't stop Braun, Bertoline, and the rest of the Redskins' coaching staff and fans from holding their collective breaths.
After his three heaves in the finals, Braun never slid past his previous-high mark, but as his opponents' final offerings fell shy of the 163-foot mark, the celebration was on.
"It is very difficult to describe the tremendous sense of relief after figuring out I had won, but it is an amazing feeling that I will never forget," Braun proudly explained. "I was glad to hit my winning mark early on, but that also made it a little nerve-wracking waiting to see how long that distance could stand."
Bertoline claims to still suffer lasting effects from that extraordinary moment.
"My back hurts from time to time from the bear hug Tim gave me after the results were official," his former coach said. "Seriously, seeing the amount of focus Tim had throughout his entire career and the pride he took in that event was truly remarkable to witness. Being there during those special moments for him was something that I will always remember."
Eight years ago Braun, who still holds St. Henry's discus record, arrived back on the track scene for the first time in more than 20 years and has been instructing St. Henry's throwers ever since. Although he isn't the one spinning and releasing, his thoughts often times drift back to his glory days.
"Other than winning state, the one thing I remember most about track and field was how much support we always received from the coaches and the community," Braun complimented. "Sometimes you hear different excuses from guys about why they can't do well in some events, but I just don't buy that. Back when I was in track, we didn't even have a track to practice on - we just worked hard and either threw inside the gym or ran sprints in the streets, and we still had quality performers all season long. If you are willing to work hard and put in that extra effort, you can succeed. You may not always win it all, but if you can say you gave it your best, that is what counts."
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