Ethan Cochran still cannot say when he suffered his first concussion in his senior year at Newport Harbor High.
He just doesn’t remember.
The second concussion, he knows when it happened. That is because he knows what it ended, his high school football career.
“I caught an interception and I was running, and then I got tackled and my head slammed against the ground,” said Cochran, a linebacker. “At that time, I thought I’d be out for like the next week and come back for the [Sunset League] finale against Edison.
“Then I went to the doctor. They did a CAT scan and all this [testing]. [The doctor] said I’d probably be out for the rest of the season. It was tough. I was pretty depressed. I felt like I couldn’t do anything about it. I felt like I left my teammates down.”
Cochran suffered more for the next month.
Football was gone from his life, but not the bad headaches and troubles focusing. When the symptoms went away, Cochran began to look forward to competing in another sport, boys’ track and field.
In the discus throw last season, Cochran finished as the best at the CIF State finals, becoming the Sailors’ first state discus throw champion.
He has started this season as No. 1 in the country.
Four months after his last football game with the Sailors, Cochran said he feels normal. His head doesn’t affect him at all.
He can focus now, and because of that, Cochran’s disc has taken off. Every time he has stepped inside the ring, the disc travels further and further.
He opened the season with a 200-foot, 10-inch effort two weeks ago at the Eagles Invitational at Santa Margarita High. That was good for first place.
Last week at the Irvine Invitational, he heaved the disc 203-9, a personal best. The mark was a record in the 33-year event and the best in the nation so far.
Four days later, Cochran topped that effort by an inch. He wasn’t even trying to set a new PR during the Battle of the Bay dual meet at rival Corona del Mar.
“The dual meets are always like, I’m not going to say boring, but I like the big meets,” Cochran said. “Those are the ones you have competition. You want to do good because everybody is watching.”
Cochran, a 6-foot-1, 225-pounder, tends to put on a show for spectators.
His biggest supporter, his mother Christine, might not be able to see Cochran at his next event. Cochran said his mother had back surgery on Thursday.
“I’m sure she’ll be OK,” said Cochran, who has been preparing for Saturday’s Triton Invitational in San Clemente. “She’s tough.”
Cochran said his mother raised him, taking good care of him and giving him all the opportunities a kid with parents would have in life.
Through hard work and the help of throws coach Tony Ciarelli, Cochran is bound for UC Berkeley. Cochran said he had other college options as Alabama, Oregon, UCLA and UC Irvine each offered him a scholarship to throw.
Cochran almost decided to stay local, to be close to his mother in Costa Mesa. Then his mother talked him out of it.
“The possibilities are that you’re going to move back here, if you like it here, later in your life,” Cochran said his mother told him. “If you can, get away from home and see what it’s like.”
Cochran likes what the future holds in Berkeley.
Before he moves up to the Bay Area, he has goals. The biggest is breaking the state record in the discus.
If there’s one guy who knows what it takes, it’s Ciarelli. While at Huntington Beach, he coached Scott Moser, who holds the state’s top mark of 213-11.
Ciarelli said Moser is well aware that Cochran is trying to break the mark Moser set 15 years ago.
Since then, Ciarelli said he has seen many throwers go 200-feet plus. The closest one getting to Moser was another of Ciarelli’s former throwers, Newport Harbor’s Bo Taylor, who holds the state’s No. 2 mark of 213-7.
Ciarelli can see someone surpass both Taylor and Moser.
“There [are] a lot of great athletes in California,” said Ciarelli, who knows he has a talented one in Cochran.
Ciarelli coached Cochran on the football team as the defensive coordinator. Cochran went on to earn first-team All-Sunset League honors in his final season.
Ciarelli is also the one who told Cochran to come out and throw as a sophomore. Right away, Ciarelli knew Cochran had a lot of potential when he launched the disc 172 feet in his first year throwing.
“He taught me everything I know. I’m very grateful for that,” Cochran said. “When I’m tired, he’ll motivate me and tell me how much potential I have. I’m trying to push myself to see what I could do.”
Born: Jan. 9, 1994
Hometown: Costa Mesa
Weight: 225 pounds
Sport: Track and field
Events: Discus throw and shot put
Coach: Tony Ciarelli
Favorite food: Prosciutto
Favorite movie: “Project X”
Favorite athletic moment: “Getting second [in the discus throw] at [the International Assn. of Athletics Federations] World [Youth Track and Field championships] in France.”
Week in review: Cochran threw the discus 203 feet, nine inches, setting a meet record at the 33rd annual Irvine Invitational.