This weekend in Maui, Matthew Masifilo will compete in the Hawaii track & field state championships throwing the discus. This is the first year of track for the Ewa Beach (Hawaii) Campbell High School senior. His PR in the discus is a modest 143.1 feet. More remarkable is the fact that he employs a standing throw.
"I didn't have time to learn the spin because this is my first year doing track," he explains. "I think I have a good chance to place in the top five this weekend because a lot of the guys who have higher marks than me aren't very consistent. And I've heard from other schools' coaches that the wind direction on Maui is completely different than the wind here on Oahu, so a lot of the top guys from Oahu end up scratching or freezing up."
Masifilo is just scratching the surface of his track & field athleticism this spring. In a recent practice, he gave a whirl with the long jump and surprised by jumping 19 feet.
"It was great, but my coach found out that it was too late to enter me in any meets because all the meets were championships already," Masifilo laments. "Our school's track team is very raw in talent. We don't have any facilities and only two coaches who have to coach everything. Like my classmate who won the high jump, he was walking up the bar and jumping and still qualified for state. I have another friend who qualified for state in the triple jump on his very first try. He didn't even know what a triple jump was until he got to the actual meet."
Competing in track this spring is an entertaining diversion for Masifilo and a welcome opportunity to compete after missing most of his football season in the fall. His thirst for a return to the gridiron was slaked recently, if momentarily, when he visited Stanford the final weekend of spring practices. His grandparents purchased the plane ticket as an early graduation present. The four-star defensive lineman had previously visited The Farm - last summer and in December - prior to the hire of Jim Harbaugh and his new staff.
"It was great. I love all the coaches," Masifilo reports of his trip. "There was just a vibe there that I felt that wasn't there before. Also I could sense the strong upperclass leadership, like how [Alex] Fletcher always takes charge of everything."
The Spring Game that Saturday gave Masifilo an up-close look at the new defense in which he will play, coached in a gamelike atmosphere at Stanford Stadium. He stood on the sideline with the defensive coaches and players and paid close attention to both the scheme and attitude in place.
"I like the scheme Coach [Scott] Shafer has and his high intensity. And Coach [Lance] Anderson is great," says the incoming Stanford freshman. "I can see myself easily learning from them."
One of the open questions during his recruitment was where Masifilo might best fit in a four-man front, given his size, strength and athleticism. At one time, the conventional wisdom was to start the lean 6'3" athlete at defensive end and let him grow into a tackle. Many observers were impressed by the physique Masifilo presented while visiting campus.
"Yeah, they liked my weight," he says. "They said not to worry because they'll build me up quick. Just focus on speed. I was 255 when I visited, and that's down from 270 back in December."
"Right now they have me at defensive tackle," Masifilo shares. "But they're going to move me around when I get there just to experiment and see where I have the greatest potential."
While he finishes up the track season, Masifilo is balancing that training with the workouts given to him by Stanford strength & conditioning coach Shannon Turley. Hands-on work in the Cardinal conditioning program will begin soon enough. Though fall training camp begins in August, Masifilo is one of the incoming freshmen who is enrolled for summer school at Stanford. Classes begin June 26.
"I'm excited but at the same time very sad to be leaving all my friends," he says.
On The Farm, a new world of friends soon await, joining Matthew Masifilo in an exhilarating chapter of his life.
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