Walking across Kansas’ campus, students automatically assume Mason Finley is throwing around opponents on the football field. The 6-foot-8, 330-pound sophomore looks like would be at home in a Jayhawks uniform taking care of business on the Big 12 gridiron. But they’d be oh so wrong.
Finley is at home throwing around the shot put and discus at Kansas and is a star on the rise. He is going into this weekend’s Big 12 championships with a solid body of work this season behind him. In the shot put, he as a season-best 19.84 meters (65-01.25 ft.) set at the Kansas Relays – so far the top throw in the NCAA and Big 12 this season and No. 2 in KU history. He also has personal bests in the discus. His 60.65 meters (199-00 ft.) mark is the third-best in the NCAA this season, in Kansas history and is second in conference.
His indoor season was just as impressive. Finley, a sophomore, had the best throw in the NCAA of the indoor season at 20.71m (67-11.25 ft.), and has runner up finishes at both the Big 12 and NCAA Indoor championships. Yet it’s the assumption that he does his work on the other field that still baffles people.
“It happens all the time,” Finley said, who has been selected Big 12 Athlete of the Week twice this season. “They forget that track is a sport, too. I even had a [football] coach ask me if I played. I’ll just stick with track because I grew up with it and I love it.”
A love that has come from being introduced to the sport by his father, Jared, who threw in college at Wyoming. His tutelage has been fruitful. Finley came to KU after a standout prep career. He was named the 2009 Track and Field News Boys Athlete of the Year and holds a national high school record in the discus (236-6 ft.). He set a new U.S.A. Juniors record in the discus at the 2009 Pan American Juniors Championships, and won gold in both the discus and shot put at the 2009 Nike Outdoor Nationals, where he set a personal best 71-8.75 ft. in the shot put and threw 211 ft. in the discus among other accomplishments.
Then he had a breakout freshman season at KU, where he was named NCAA Midwest Region Male Track and Field Athlete of the year and Big 12 Most Outstanding Male Athlete of the Year for his 2010 outdoor season. In his first year, Finley won the shot put and discus at the Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Championships. He also became the 12th KU athlete to be named Indoor All-American, recording five first place finishes in the shot put.
And as if he needed any more people to emulate than his dad, Finley didn’t need to look any further than on campus. It’s alma mater of Al Oerter, the late four-time Olympic champion.
“What he did was incredible,” Finley said. “To win the Olympics four times in those days. Al Oerter did it at a different time. Hopefully I will throw the discus and shot in the Olympics.
“Right now I am concentrating on the getting better. It’s been pretty rough in the shot lately and it’s going great in discus. In the shot I am sort of up and down and getting a little less distance. I want to improve on that and everything I do. I have to because everybody [in the Big 12] is throwing farther and wants to be the best. It’s a battle each time out there. But I like to compete.”
And after his track career he wants to compete in another theater. Or more precisely, the big screen. This fall, Finley declared his major which is film/acting. It’s been too soon to see any fruit from this yet and that’s fine with Finley. He intends to stay in sports as long as he can before trying to use his major.
“It’s something I want to try,” Finley said. “I hope to be able to do it. If not, I want to teach it.
“It’s exciting. I love Robin Williams because he does comedy, everything. But I know with my body type, I think I would be more in action movies doing parts like Dolph Lundgren and guys like that. I have some time.”