Great Neck South senior James Kessler was the only shot putter in the school district to compete in the Ocean Breeze state competition on Sunday, March 3.
Though his 42-foot throw did not earn him the state championship, Kessler certainly has many feats, both on the field and off. In fact, he broke his own personal record three times in one month—throwing the heavy spherical shot a distance of 45 feet, 11.5 inches.
Kessler was a lineman for the football team in his freshman year at South High. His life was forever changed when he was struck by a car in 2016. Due to a spinal cord injury resulting from the accident, his doctors recommended that he refrain from playing contact sports.
To release the anger and frustration he felt watching his former teammates train for football, Kessler started throwing shot put for the Rebels track team. Reality hit him hard as the football season neared and he realized that he wasn’t going to be playing.
“Kids made fun of him, but Coach Delucia said, ‘You would be good at shot put,’” said his mother, Jean-Marie Kessler. “This is when James said, ‘OK.’”
Shot put plays a large role in his life, because it’s the only sport he is able to participate in since his accident.
“Ever since the beginning of sophomore year, shot put has always been there for me,” said Kessler. “It has kept me active and was something I wanted to keep doing to push my limits and see where it would take me.”
Kessler plans to not only continue throwing shot put in the spring, but also in college. He is looking to study criminal justice at Nassau Community College, eventually transferring to either Mount Saint Mary College or Farmingdale State College.
In addition to throwing shot put, Kessler is a lifeguard for both the school district and the community of Great Neck. He also volunteers as a firefighter with the Alert Fire Department.
“His perseverance prevailed over all, and he will come back stronger in the spring,” said his mom. “He is looking to make states again.”