Home International OPRF’s Kaden Garland isn’t just a state champion. He tops his father...

OPRF’s Kaden Garland isn’t just a state champion. He tops his father too. ‘What’s more to come’ at USC?

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Throughout Kaden Garland’s Oak Park-River Forest career in track and field, his greatest challenge lived in his house.

The 6-foot-4, 285-pound Garland wanted to break his father’s marks in the shot put and the discus.

“I did feel the pressure, but I felt it was a good thing, not a bad thing,” Garland said. “I wasn’t sure I could break his record in my senior year. I had a lot of pressure to do it, but it also pushed me a lot.”

Garland’s father, Ty, was a track and football star in high school in New Jersey, where he was the 1993 indoor national champion in the shot put and set his school’s records in that event with a throw of 64 feet, 8 inches and in the discus with 191-0. Ty Garland also was a standout linebacker at Michigan State, where he competed in track for one season.

Kaden Garland, who placed fifth at state in the shot put and 11th in the discus last year, said he was slowly building toward topping his father in the former this season.

“A couple of weeks before state, I was hitting some pretty big numbers,” he said. “I was feeling up to breaking his record at state.”

Garland accomplished his goal at the state meet at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Field in Charleston on May 25. In the process, he became a state champion, winning the shot put in Class 3A with a personal-best 65-9.5.

Garland is Oak Park-River Forest’s first champion in the event since Joe Peterson won in 1947.

“It felt amazing, but it didn’t hit me right after I did it,” Garland said. “I was digesting what happened. It was a huge throw.”

Garland fell short of sweeping the two throwing events, earning a fifth-place medal in the discus. But his 15 total points played a pivotal role in the team standings as the Huskies shared the 3A title with Edwardsville. Other individual state champions for the Huskies, who won their first team title since 1987, were junior Caleb Schulz in the 100 meters and junior Kwabena Osei-Yeboah in the long jump.

“Kaden scoring 10 points in the shot put was massive for us,” Oak Park-River Forest coach Tim Hasso said.

He knows it was massive for Garland too.

“He didn’t want the silver medal (in the family) for the rest of his life,” Hasso said. “He spent three or four years going for his dad’s record. His dad still got him in the discus, though.”

Ty Garland, who coaches the Oak Park-River Forest throwers, said he was ecstatic to see his son not only win but also surpass him in the shot put.

“It feels absolutely fantastic,” Ty Garland said. “His potential is so much greater than mine. I’m super proud of him.”

Kaden Garland will try to reach that potential when he becomes the second person in his family competing at USC. His older sister, Reese, just completed her freshman season for the Trojans.

Reese Garland, who placed second in the discus and fifth in the shot put at the 2023 state meet, emphasizes the importance of planning ahead in college.

“I told my brother to stay focused and acknowledge your goals,” she said. “I think setting short- and long-term goals for the season and career has helped me form a plan and succeed.”

Kaden Garland’s sports resume includes more than throwing events. He was a standout two-way lineman in football. He was also an accomplished gymnast for many years until he decided to quit the sport in seventh grade. He can still create a stir among friends and teammates by doing a backflip easily.

“Gymnastics was basically my main sport until I got too tall and big for it,” Garland said. “The high bar was probably my best. I was good at floor too.”

Garland, who said he can play several instruments, also boasts about his ability to solve a Rubik’s Cube in “maybe 30 to 35 seconds, but I used to do it under 20 seconds.”

Oak Park-River Forest’s Kaden Garland, center, the Class 3A state champion in the shot put, stands with his older sister, Reese, left, and younger sister, Jaida, in Oak Park on Friday, May 31, 2024. (James C. Svehla / Pioneer Press)

Is he the best athlete in the family? Reese Garland laughed at the question, joking that she’s No. 1. Younger sister Jaida, an Oak Park-River Forest freshman, could be in the running sooner than later. She’s a thrower too.

“My father would have to be the best athlete in the family,” Reese Garland said.

Kaden Garland said he’s looking at the bigger picture.

“I feel like I have a lot of potential left for my future,” he said. “I’m trying to carve my own path. It’s awesome to accomplish things my parents did not accomplish and throwing a longer distance than my dad. I feel very proud of what I’ve done, but I’m also ready for what’s more to come.”

Bobby Narang is a freelance reporter.

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