Jake Taylor knew he wanted to throw the shot put when he was in the eighth grade.
Not so coincidentally, this was about the time his older brother, Bo, was excelling in the event as a senior at Newport Harbor High. Jake tried it and liked it, able to throw the junior-sized eight-pound ball relatively far.
"Just watching Bo throw, I felt like, 'This is something that I can enjoy,' " Jake said.
Four years later, the ball is 12 pounds, and Jake Taylor is also of a significantly larger girth. He spent his senior year with the Sailors as a football left tackle, earning Daily Pilot Dream Team and Sunset League Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year honors.
But the goal in shot put, as it has always been, remains simple enough: to put the shot as far as you can.
Taylor did it Saturday at the CIF Southern Section Division II finals, saving the best for last as his final throw went a personal-best 55 feet, 10 inches. That placed him fourth in Division II and led him to today's Masters Meet back at Cerritos College.
Taylor, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week, needs to either finish in the top five or better the 55-4 at-large qualifying mark today to advance to his first CIF State Meet.
"That would be huge," Taylor said. "I'd be really disappointed if I didn't go to state. Basically all the work I've been putting in has been geared toward going to state."
It wasn't always the case for Taylor, who achieved his former personal record of 55-9 in March but has struggled over the past month or so. He wasn't even the first Sailors thrower to qualify in the shot. That would be junior Ryan Andrews, who placed seventh in Division II and didn't advance to Masters.
Newport Harbor throws coach Tony Ciarelli has had his share of talent this year, even without senior Cecil Whiteside, who is headed to Cal to play football. Whiteside finished third in the state in the discus last year but elected not to throw this year.
"It would have been good to have him on the team," Taylor said. "There would have been even more competition everyday."
Still, the Sailors have had crazy depth. It's what allowed them to have six throwers reach more than 50 feet in the shot put, at a dual meet against Edison last month.
Taylor, who finished fourth at Sunset League finals and plans to continue his career at Princeton, was the only senior among that group. He is also the last Newport thrower still competing, getting more publicity than during the football season, when as a tackle he mostly stayed out of the spotlight after starting at center his junior year.
"He was the one who had kind of lost his way for a few weeks, but he's pulled himself out of it," Ciarelli said. "I think he's ready to go far. I think his chances of making it [to the state meet] are very good."
Taylor is hoping it runs in the family. Bo Taylor went on to UCLA, where he has fought injuries but finished seventh in the Pac-10 in the discus last month. As a high school senior, he was more dominant, finishing second at the 2006 CIF State Meet in both the shot put (63-11 1/4 ) and discus (201-5).
No Newport-Mesa athlete has advanced to state in the shot put since.
There's one more Taylor in the pipeline, too. The youngest Taylor, Marty, is a freshman at Newport Harbor and plays football and throws. Jake's other older brother, Griffin, is a sophomore at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
The football and track combination works for the Taylor clan. The sports can be similar, Jake Taylor said.
"If you break it down play by play in football, it's like every play is a new play," he said. "It's like, 'This is where I'm going to do my best, right now.' That's like every throw. In football, you get a few more plays to do your best, but it's a similar mind-set."
Today at the Masters Meet, he will get six throws. Taylor knows that even if he can't finish in the top five, he has a good shot to make the at-large mark that he was already six inches beyond at divisional championships.
He's still working on perfecting his craft. Specifically, Taylor said his biggest key has been getting into the middle of the ring on his throws.
"I usually come up short," he said. "Instead of getting the full rotation into the middle, I stop, so that shuts down the rotation and I can't turn through the middle."
Ciarelli doesn't expect Taylor to come up short today, though, when the athletes' distances are measured. His thrower also has plenty of confidence that he can move on to state.
"That's the goal, and it's close," Taylor said. "It's within reach right now."