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Brodhead grad relishes shot at Olympic trials
Photo supplied Brodhead graduate and University of Iowa record-holder A.J. Curtis finished 24th in the discus (172 feet, 9 inches) at the U.S. Olympic trials July 3 at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Ore.
BRODHEAD - Former Brodhead Cardinal and University of Iowa senior A.J. Curtis will have a story to share in the ring with fellow weightmen.

Curtis finished 24th in the discus at the U.S. Olympic trials July 3 at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Ore. Curtis' best throw (172 feet, 9 inches) came on his second attempt.

"It's something not a lot of people in the world get to do, and I was fortunate to be able to do that," Curtis said. "I was hoping for more. When you get to that stage, it's an unbelievable and a surreal feeling."

Curtis received an invitation to compete in the Olympic trials after breaking a Hawkeye school record (202-11) at the Central College Open at Pella, Iowa, earlier this season. That throw put him in the top 24 in the country. Curtis, a two-time all-region honoree, also holds the school record for most times qualifying for the NCAA Midwest regional (six).

Curtis said he wanted to throw 180 feet.

"I knew I would not be one of the best three throws, which would have qualified for the Olympics. I'm not at that level yet. It was a little disappointing. I worked to end on a better note than that. It's something that just didn't happen."

Curtis scratched on his final throw.

"The biggest challenge was keeping my emotions in check," he said.

It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience Curtis will cherish.

"It's an accomplishment I will always remember," Curtis said. "It's something I always strived for. Twenty-one thousand people at a track meet is the most people I have ever seen."

Curtis started throwing the discus at age 11 with his father, Mike, who threw the discus at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. The attraction to the discus became a family affair. A.J.'s oldest sister, Jackie, won a state discus title her freshman year for Monroe. She helped turn him on to the sport. A.J.'s sister, Amber, also was a state discus champion.

"We really got into it at a young age," A.J. said. "He (Mike) was the main reason. It was something I was intrigued by. I saw my sister doing it and I wanted to jump right in and do it."

Curtis won a WIAA Division 2 state discus title in 2004 and twice finished as the state runner-up.

"I think any time you get to compete in the Olympic trials it's an honor," Mike Curtis said.

Mike said a big part of A.J.'s success is his devotion to technique.

"I think you have to have some size, speed and quickness to go with it," Mike said. "We are really lucky as a family to be involved."

A.J. said the discus takes a lot of balance and effort to keep your body in control while throwing.

"It's not something you can just jump in the ring and start doing," he said.

After competing at the Olympic trials, Curtis flew to Carson City, Nev., for a family vacation. He has been training and competing in the discus and shot put since the spring.

"For me, it's probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Curtis said. "It will be nice to get a couple of weeks off and then go back to lifting."