Mike Salvanish loved the weight room, loved pushing himself.
By age 15 he was already bench-pressing 250 pounds and dead-lifting even more — but he needed a different outlet for his strength and competitive nature.
Sure, there was football for the Bald Eagle Area student, getting to push people around on the offensive line, but it wasn’t satisfying. He needed something more, something different.
When he finally discovered track and field’s cement circle, with a lead ball cradled in the palm of his hand under his chin, he knew he found his place.
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“He enjoyed lifting weights and working out, and he enjoyed football,” BEA throwing coach Ron Hoover said. “But track is a whole different sport. He worked in the offseason and he’s been consistent.”
With a long history of strong throwers through the Eagle track and field program, Salvanish is looking to leave his own mark as he enters the final weeks of his senior year. He won the shot put title at the Mountain League Championships last week, plus the event in every league dual meet this season. He is seeking more with the West Central Coaches Invitational on Friday and District 6 Championships on May 16, both in Altoona.
Salvanish has put up some impressive numbers just in the weight room. He’s improved that best bench press to 350 pounds, and he can dead-lift 500 pounds.
But it’s how he has combined that strength with cardio work and training to increase his distance.
“Anyone can throw the shot put,” he said. “It’s just the people that want to put in the work are the ones who succeed at it.”
That’s one thing Salvanish, who also throws the discus, is more than willing to do.
“He’s just such a hard worker,” BEA head coach Jeff Jodon said. “He’s always working.”
The hard work got him noticed by the Lock Haven coaches, who caught a meet earlier this spring — with perfect timing to see him unload his personal-best throw of 45 feet, 7 inches — and invited him to join their program next season.
When he gets to campus he plans to study business education. He likes numbers and stats — he can recite just about any sport stat you need — and that gravitation to digits comes into play in competition.
“He knows what everyone is throwing; he knows the competition way better than I do,” Hoover said. “I just worry about our kids, and the numbers take care of themselves.”
Salvanish is also intense. When asked if the BEA senior can get heated in competition, his father broke out in laughter.
“Especially if his dad beats him,” his father Chuck said.
A few nights earlier, the pair was playing cards and it appeared Chuck had a win locked up until a comeback on the last round. Mike made sure to remind his father who won over and over.
At 6-foot-1 and 315 pounds, the offensive guard liked football, but he didn’t want to keep playing the sport. Track is easier on the body, he said. It didn’t help that he had to miss half of his sophomore season with a concussion.
“It’s not that fun of an experience,” he said. “But you just get through it, and you get back out there.”
His football career isn’t quite over, however, with a date in the Lezzer Lumber Classic next month. But he’s focused on the next few weeks with the Eagle track and field team.
“We have more footage to add, and he’s very capable of doing that,” Hoover said. “We just have to be a little quicker in the circle.”
Salvanish’s goal is to reach 50-3 by the district meet, which is good enough for an automatic qualifying spot for the PIAA meet.
The most important thing for him to get there? Hard work.
“He’s a student,” Hoover said. “He wants to learn, he wants to absorb stuff. What can he do to get better?”