Kail Ellison just knew he had finished second at the state meet. The Arlington Grace Prep discus thrower wasn’t certain what Midland Christian’s Johnny Wilson had on his final attempt — and no one would tell him — but Ellison judged it to be longer than his best.
His eyes were filling with tears when one of his longtime coaches, Chad Pegues, asked why he was crying.
“Because I lost,” Ellison answered.
Pegues then informed Ellison that he had won. Ellison’s best throw of 157 feet, 11 inches beat Wilson by almost 2 feet, good enough for the 4A TAPPS state title.
“What?” Ellison said in disbelief. “I won?”
The first-place medal completed his senior year. He had set that as a goal after finishing fifth in the discus at the 2013 state meet.
“About halfway through my junior season, I started increasing by 10 feet at every meet,” Ellison said. “I knew I could push myself more the next year, so I told myself I was going to win it my senior year.”
The state medal has become a prized possession.
“It’s hanging up in my room, and it won’t be touched by anyone,” Ellison said.
The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder threw the discus in seventh and eighth grade before taking up baseball in high school. It was an ill-fated switch.
“I stunk at baseball,” he said.
So Ellison returned to throwing the discus as a junior, and with a pair of Olympians coaching him, he quickly became competitive. Grace Prep coach Jon Drummond owns two Olympic medals and helps coach Olympic shot putter Michelle Carter. Adam Setliff, Ellison’s private coach, is a two-time Olympian who finished fifth in the discus in the 2000 Games and now coaches in Dallas.
Ellison followed his sister, Whitley, in becoming a discus thrower. Whitley was a three-time TAPPS state champion at Grace Prep and threw for Texas Tech and the University of Texas at Arlington, where she just finished her final year of eligibility with a 10th-place finish in the Sun Belt Conference meet.
Kail, 18, has a career-best throw of 162-8. Whitley, 22, has a personal best of 161-8.
“I have the farthest throw in the house,” Ellison said proudly.
Ellison received scholarship offers to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and the University of the Incarnate Word, among others, but he likely will walk on at UTA. He hopes to earn a scholarship by next year, though he’ll have to adjust to a heavier discus.
“My goal is to break the school record, if I go there, which is 177,” Ellison said. “It’ll be a challenge with a 2 kilogram disc, instead of a 1.6 kilogram. But that’s a good goal for me.”