Photo by Ryan C. Henriksen

Reece Goddard won the 11-12 boys competition in the discus Friday at the Show-Me State Games. Goddard, 11, picked up the discus on a whim at his brother’s track meet and learned to throw by watching professional throwers in YouTube videos.

Ernie Goddard did not know he scheduled his family vacation to Wyoming last summer for the week of the AAU Junior Olympic Games.

Nor would he have cared if you told him.

When he booked the flights, his son, Reece, had yet to discover the 2.2-pound metal discus that would make him one of the nation’s top 11-year-olds in a sport neither knew anything about.

But suffice to say, this is not a story about the Goddards’ trip to the mountains. Ernie and Reece ate the plane tickets.

“Absolutely worth it,” Ernie said.

Dad shook his head as he shared the story with a reporter last night at the Show-Me State Games.

Who knew?

Reece, whose throw of 100 feet, 6 inches, traveled nearly 25 feet farther than the best heave of his closest challenger in the 11-12 boys discus competition at Walton Stadium, is one of the top throwers nationally in his age group.

Employing a compact two-step maneuver he learned from watching hours of YouTube videos, the Festus native finished second at the Junior Olympics last year in Norfolk, Va., and ranks second among 12-year-olds with a personal-best heave of 117-10.

“You’re wondering, ‘Where is this thing going?’ ” Ernie said.

Ask Reece about his goals in track and field, and he responds matter-of-factly.

“Go to a Division I college and get a scholarship,” Reece said.

If he does, Reece will have YouTube and a random curiosity to thank.

He came upon the sport last spring after finding an old discus at his brother’s middle school track meet. He lugged it home and began throwing it in the backyard, 40 or 50 feet at first, then more.

Reece soon took to YouTube and scrutinized the form of professionals, particularly Estonian Gerd Kanter. Every day, he rode his bike to the local high school to train.

Ernie thought little at first about Reece’s new hobby. Football had always been Reece’s favorite sport — “I like to hit people,” he said. But Ernie humored his son and took him to a local meet. Reece finished third.

Reece then won an AAU district qualifier before traveling to Joplin for the national qualifying meet. He would be facing throwers from Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas.

“Well, there’s no way he’s going to get in the top four to get to the Olympics,” Ernie remembers thinking.

In the back of his mind, however, he knew the national meet would overlap with the family’s long-planned vacation.

“If you win, I’ll take you to the Olympics,” Ernie told Reece.

The new kid won running away.

Reece will return to the Junior Olympics next week in New Orleans. Beyond that, he hopes to set a national age-group record of 134 feet. In practice, he said he regularly approaches 125 feet.

He hoped the adrenaline that comes with competition would help him launch a personal-best throw last night. But with a large crowd of parents, his brother, Blake — and a cameraman — in the audience, he struggled to find his rhythm.

“Couldn’t get my head right,” Reece said.

It was back to the drawing board — and YouTube.

Reach David Briggs at This article was published on page B1 of the Saturday,