The graduation from high school to college is full of transitions.
For Orono High School grad Jake Koffman, much of his ascension to life as a freshman at Stanford University involves a sentiment shared by thousands of college freshmen each year.
“In terms of academics it’s been pretty smooth,” he said. “I love the freedom of college and the ability to choose pretty much whatever class I want and take it.
“Maybe the hardest adjustment is just being conscious of how little time I have during the day and being super aware of how I want to spend it because there’s only so many things you can commit to and you really have to prioritize what things mean the most to you.”
Koffman’s transition is made more complex by one of the focal points of his high school and college experience — track and field.
“Athletics is definitely a big-time commitment but there are just so many cool things around campus to do on the weekends. There’s been a trip to Yosemite, you can go surfing, there’s a really cool outdoor club here,” said Koffman. “All those things are super cool but if you want to be elite in your sport you have to focus and commit to do that, and just learning how to do that has been a bit of an adjustment but overall it’s been pretty smooth.”
Koffman was recruited to Stanford during a stellar career at Orono where he became the state record-holder in the discus at 199 feet, 1 inch. He also was a two-time New England champion and three-time state champion in that event and went on to place fourth at the 2017 U.S. junior championships and third at the 2016 New Balance Outdoor Nationals.
His transition to classes and competition across the continent in Palo Alto, California, was perhaps simplified by the fact that throwers on the Stanford men’s track team routinely redshirt their freshman indoor seasons. That is done in part to help in the adjustment to college life and also because the weights of the instruments being thrown increase from high school to college.
The discus Koffman now throws at Stanford is 2 kilograms or approximately 4½ pounds, compared to 1.6 kilos or approximately 3½ pounds in high school.
The college shot put is 16 pounds compared to 12 pounds in high school.
“It’s even more significant when you think of it as a percentage of the high school weight,” said Koffman. “You’re moving up 33 percent in the shot put and 25 percent in the discus, and to put it into perspective people their freshman year, even though they’re usually getting better training and coaching, are throwing less distance than they did in high school.”
Koffman is satisfied with his progress to date in the discus, with his best so far this spring with the new weight at 52.52 meters (approximately 173 feet).
“You do have think about form more, but that’s because when the weight is super light you can miss positions and just muscle it out there,” Koffman said.
He hopes to top 55 meters in the discus before the end of the outdoor season.
Koffman also is gaining an appreciation for the increased level of competition in Division I. Each thrower gets three first-round attempts but only the top nine qualify for three additional throws in the finals.
“Pretty much every meet in high school I knew that if I fouled two or had two bad throws I could take an easy throw and still get into the finals and guarantee myself another three throws,” he said. “In college I don’t have that guarantee. I need to come out throwing well right from the start and get a good throw in those first three tries.”
Koffman is one of 14 throwing specialists on the Stanford roster, a peer group with a unique perspective on their shared sporting passion.
“It’s super fun just being able to go out every meet and know that all the people you’re competing with and against are super dedicated, too, and know a lot about the sport,” Koffman said. “It’s a really cool culture.”
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