For Houle, better late than never

For Houle, better late than never

Woonsocket High senior Jesse Houle is one of only 38 high school throwers in the country to surpass the 64-foot mark in the 25-pound weight throw. The Walsh University-bound thrower took ninth place in the event at last month’s RIIL Indoor Championships with his personal-best throw of 64 feet, 3/4 inches.
In 2 1/2 years, Woonsocket thrower goes from learning craft to signing NLI to Ohio’s D-II Walsh University

WOONSOCKET – Like every senior high school athlete, Jesse Houle wishes the threat of COVID-19 would go away so he could rejoin his teammates and prepare for the final outdoor season of his track and field career.

Unlike every senior high school athlete, the talented Woonsocket High thrower will continue his athletic career after he picks up his diploma later this spring, and he will be doing so at one of Ohio’s top Division II universities.

A week after taking ninth place in the 25-pound weight throw at last month’s RIIL Indoor Championships with his personal-best 64-foot-¾ throw, Houle signed his National Letter of Intent to Walsh University, which is located in North Canton and is a member of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference

Houle, who committed to Walsh on the day of the state meet, is the 10th thrower from WHS since 2014 to take his talents to a D-I or D-II program, and he’s quite happy with the decision he made.

“I’ve been talking to (Walsh throws coach Jeff Jakmides) for a while, since last summer,” Houle said last Thursday. Walsh “was just what I was looking for in a school. They had a really cool team that was close, the coaches were really good, and it’s a small school, so I think I’ll fit in really well there.”

What makes Houle’s story a very special one is that he didn’t pick up his first weight or hammer until his sophomore year. And he credits his best friend, David Marszalkowski, who was last year’s salutatorian at WHS (and is attending another Ohio school, Kent State University), for encouraging him to give the sport a shot like Marszalkowski did two years earlier.

“When I was a freshman, he was like, ‘You’d probably love this sport. You should come and do it,” added the 5-foot-10, 230-pound Houle, who plans to study kinesiology in college. “But I shook him off and said, “I don’t think it’s for me.’ But I ended up giving it a try and it became my life.

“He started late obviously, and his sophomore year was mediocre at best,” WHS coach Marc Piette said. “He threw 44 feet in the weight, 129 in the hammer, and 30 in the shot put. But he worked tirelessly in the weight room, and he was practicing every day for hours, just throwing and throwing.

“His junior year, he threw 53-10½ in the weight, which is kind of a normal second-year throw,” Houle continued. “But when he got outdoors, he threw 192 in the hammer, which is pretty high up there for a second-year person. And Jesse also threw the (35-pound) college hammer 150 feet, which really helped solidify him some big-time (scholarship) money.

It certainly put Houle on the radar of some “D-II and low D-I schools,” added Piette, and “the show of massive growth in a short period of time was just something that caught their eye. And this year, Jesse’s done some great work. He got real strong in the weight room and bulked up and put on a few pounds.”

And he’s delivered his share of excellent throws. At the New England Weight Championships that were held on Feb. 26 at the Providence Career & Technical Academy field house, Houle again finished ninth in the 25-pound weight with a throw of 62-2, and in the 35-pound event, he placed seventh with a throw of 45-4¼.

Six nights later, back at the PCTA facility, and – in what would turn out to be the final high school meet of the indoor season – the Weightarama, Houle took 10th place in the 25-pound weight with a throw of 60-2½ and fourth in the 35-pound event with a personal-best throw of 46-6¾.

“It was a good season,” Houle said. “I always look back that if I had that freshman year, if I had started earlier, where I would be right now. But you can’t change the past or really dwell on that too much.

As for his present success, “that has a lot to do with the program and the people I’ve been around,” said Houle. “We have a really good coach, and we’re in like a community where we just work really hard and push each other to get better. They definitely have had a big part in all my success as well.

“I couldn’t be any happier for him,” added Piette, who reported that Houle will be an Eagle Scout at the end of this year. “He’s just a really solid kid, and for someone who’s only been throwing for 2½ years, what he’s done is amazing.

And here’s something that people might forget about Houle: When he wasn’t perfecting his craft during the indoor and outdoor seasons, he was spending each fall as a center on the Novans’ football team that captured the last two Division II championships.

“I started football my freshman year,” Houle said. “I played flag football when I was a kid, but when I got to high school, I wanted to give football a try. And it ended up working out – I met a lot of good friends, and two Super Bowls later …”