BONSALL — A year ago, Brent Noon's eyes were as big as the 12-pound iron ball he threw farther than any other high school athlete in the nation.
While most high school shotputters lunged at the 50-foot threshold, Noon managed a launch that re-entered at 76 feet 4 inches.
But being out front in 1990 wasn't enough; he wanted to be the best of all time. So he opened his eyes and targeted 77 feet, which then was an 11-year-old National Federation high school record.
With three weeks remaining in the season, Noon was only eight inches away from realizing his five-year ambition. Putting a divot at 77-0 appeared within reach for a guy who improved more than two feet over the same time period a year earlier.
But maybe because Michael Carter's 77-0 mark now has lasted more than 12 years, Noon's wide-eyed optimism has dampened.
A hamstring strain--significant enough for his doctor to advise Noon to stop competing (he didn't)--kept him from possibly reaching his goal in the season's final weeks.
A year later, Noon chooses not to dwell on it.
"At first, it was hard to put behind me because I was so close," he said last week. "I thought that was the most important thing at the time, but now I'm on to something else, so it's not like it was the end of the world."
Michael Carter's record eluded Noon, and the experience of chasing it changed him.
He no longer talks about precise distances he thinks he can attain. He doesn't mention names of competitors who have out-thrown him. He doesn't talk about breaking records.
Only 19, Noon has cloaked his exuberance with a poker face worthy of a member of the Soviet Politburo.
How far have you been throwing in practice?
Practice is so much different than competing.
In years past, Noon couldn't be kept from revealing his practice efforts.
How far do you think you can throw?
They say the difference between the 16-pound shot and the 12-pound is 10 feet. My best mark in high school was 76.
In years past, Noon always talked about Carter's 77-foot mark and even the 80-foot barrier with a glow of confidence.
What are the good college throwers doing?
Well, 61 feet won the NCAAs.
In year's past, Noon would rattle off a string of names and their best marks like a stock market analyst reeling off all the blue-chippers.
Those past years also gave Noon reason to be tight-lipped.
He managed a first-place heave of 74-4 3/4 at the state finals in 1990. The next day, newspapers reported his disappointing effort. Everyone was expecting a record and when it didn't come, even a gold medal had no luster.
The goal went unattained, but Noon didn't wait long to move on.
"The day after the (1990) state meet," said Jim Noon, Brent's father and coach, "Brent shook off the disappointment of not throwing 77 feet and started throwing with the 16-pound shot."
The 16-pound shot is the college and international standard. Come August, Brent will embark on a collegiate career.
There was a one-year gap between Noon's senior year in high school and his upcoming freshman year of college.
Although universities beckoned and even begged, there was a hang-up.
"I was waiting for someone to offer a Camaro," Noon joked.
Actually, the hang-up was that the Noons insisted on going against the trend toward detached families. This one was going to stay together. Recruiters trying to lure Brent soon found he was a package deal.
Brent's goal to be an Olympic shotputter is really a family goal, shared by his father, his mother Barbara and older brother Brad.
The choices were narrowed by the Noons' intention of staying together. Not only was Brent adamant about keeping his high school coach, but he sought a college with a reputable medical school to which Brad could apply.
So while Brad, 24, awaited the results from his M-CATS, the Noons decided to take a year to decide where they would go to college.
Eventually the choices were narrowed to Alabama and Georgia.
Both institutions had up-and-coming track and field programs and prestigious medical schools. Plus, both had coaches who genuinely wanted Jim's expertise.
Georgia won out.
So there's a for-sale sign in front of a sprawling four-bedroom house on a Bonsall hillside complete with swimming pool, Jacuzzi, a three-car garage upgraded to a weight room and a shotput ring in the driveway.
"I keep giving Brent every opportunity to say 'Get lost,' " Jim said. "But he just won't. I guess we're walking a fine line between untying the apron strings and going through the empty-nest syndrome, but it's kind of natural to us."
Said Brent, "This is a pretty unique family. Me and my dad especially--we spend all day together. That's the best thing about Georgia--none of that has to change.
"My dad is my coach, and that's not changing. A lot of coaches who recruited me said, 'Oh, sure, you're dad's welcome.' But you could tell they were just saying that because they wanted you."