Cousins Jonah and Jacob Wilson are separated by two months. Two months and a few feet, to be precise.
The pair were “always together” growing up, and all these years later not much has changed.
Jonah Wilson, a senior at Clovis High, is California’s top-ranked discus thrower and No. 2 in shot put heading into the CIF State Track and Field Championships at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Jacob Wilson, a senior at Buchanan, is No. 1 in shot put and fifth in discus.
Based on qualifying marks, there’s a good chance one of these cousins – or both – could emerge Saturday as a state champion.
What’s the ideal scenario?
Jonah wants it to be him: “I’m definitely shooting for that double. I’d love to win both. That would be insane.”
And, as you might expect, Jacob wants it to be him: “Perfect scenario, I’m the state champ in both and he takes second. And I have no question he said the same thing.”
Did I mention these cousins are a wee bit competitive?
Probably best described as a friendly rivalry thickened by blood.
“There is that extra push when they compete against each other,” Clovis coach Bill Buettner said. “We’ve seen it throughout the years. They both love each other, but they both want to best the other one, too.”
Growing up they were inseparable, always together. So it’s not too much out of the ordinary now that they’re doing the same thing.
Todd Wilson, Jonah’s father
That was never more apparent than during last month’s Battle of the Central Cal meet at the Vet when Jonah Wilson hurled a discus 221 feet, 5 inches – a California high school record and farther than all but four prep throwers in U.S. history.
The way Jonah recounts the story, though, it’s clear Jacob had a role as well.
Moments before Jonah’s historic 221, Jacob fouled on a 203-footer that would’ve been his personal best. A group of Buchanan fans in attendance reacted by clapping and cheering.
Which didn’t rub comfortably against his competitive cousin.
“I had a previous mark, at Arcadia, of 201 – and of course no one clapped for me,” Jonah said. “But he fouled at 203 and everybody went, ‘Wow!’
“So I had to silence all the spectators out there. I pointed at my dad, said ‘Watch this’ and just let it rip. Everyone just went silent.”
221-5 Jonah Wilson’s mark in the discus throw, an all-time California high school record
Asked if he had a similar recollection, Jacob replied, “I don’t remember it quite like that. It wasn’t that big of a meet. There might have been 15 people.”
Jacob and Jonah are about as close as two cousins can be, related on both sides of the family tree.
Here’s the short version: Dave Wilson (Jacob’s dad) met future wife Kerry while they were students at UCLA and relocated to her hometown of Fresno. At their wedding, Dave introduced younger brother Todd (Jonah’s dad) to Kerry’s sister Christy.
“Three months later we got married,” Todd Wilson said. “Sisters married brothers.”
Track and field was part of the family, too. Dave Wilson was a standout thrower at UCLA, while Todd Wilson, two years younger, was a standout thrower at Washington. Years later their sons are following the exact same path, with Jacob set to become a Bruin in the fall and Jonah a Husky.
Which means this cousin competition will continue on into the Pac-12.
Until their senior years, Jacob has always been a little ahead of Jonah in physical development and results. He placed third in the shot put and fourth in the discus at last year’s state meet. Jonah was sixth in the discus.
I definitely took charge this year. Did everything within my power to make sure I ended up on top of (Jacob).
That changed during the past year when Jonah began dedicating himself more, both in the weight room and nutrition.
After competing below 200 pounds as a junior, Jonah added some 35 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame. Good thing the guy wears a lot of tank tops. Otherwise his clothes would no longer fit around his bulging shoulders.
“I got into the weight room three times a day,” he said. “I lifted with football players, I lifted with anyone I could. Now I’m weighing 230-235.”
Buettner said, “Those two things, proper nourishment and attacking the weights, have made a huge difference.”
To win the state title in discus, Jonah will have to be at or near his best. Two other prep throwers, Oak Park’s Robbie Otal (209-3) and Clayton Valley’s Jeff Williams (205-7) have surpassed 200 feet.
“I believe he has a 210 within him again,” Buettner said, “and if he does that he has a great shot.”
Unlike his cousin, Jacob Wilson’s senior year has been dogged by a groin pull he suffered in February and reaggravated midseason. But there’s evidence he’s getting healthy at the right time. He set a personal best in shot put (66-5½) on May 10 and unleashed a season-best in discus (194-0) on May 20 at the Central Section Masters meet.
I know I can throw 66 feet, but I’m looking for higher marks. Let’s leave it at that.
Cousin Jonah (64-3) and Marina-Huntington Beach’s Kyle Tsu (63-10) are the other entrants to surpass 62 feet.
“The groin pull affected my discus throwing a lot more than my shot-putting because the ring size in shot put is a lot smaller,” Jacob Wilson said. “But I’m feeling really good now. Come Saturday, they might be surprised with the throws I have.”
Neither cousin will be surprised by the enormity of the state meet. Both have competed three times and have felt the pressure and extra buzz.
“It’s like when you’re going to take a girl out on a date and when you go to pick her up she has makeup on and nice clothes,” Jacob Wilson said. “That’s kind of what the state meet is. It’s still the same girl, but it’s all dressed up. They put flowers out and flags and bleachers. But it’s still the same track and still the same rings.”
And when it’s over, there just might be members of the same family wearing gold medals.
99th CIF Track and Field Championships
- When: Friday and Saturday. Preliminary field events begin at 3 p.m. Friday, track events at 5. Field event finals begin at 4:30 p.m. Saturday; track finals begin at 6 p.m.
- Where: Veterans Memorial Stadium at Buchanan High School, 1560 N. Minnewawa Ave., Clovis.
- Tickets: Stadium gates open at 2 p.m. Friday and 3:30 p.m. Saturday. General admission tickets are $10 Friday ($7 children/students/seniors) and $12 on Saturday ($8 children/students/seniors). Parking is $5 daily for autos and $10 for RVs.