The Whiteland residence Robert and Tracy Emberton moved to 14 years ago to raise their children sits on two acres of land.
Enough real estate for discuses to fly with no risk of complaints from neighbors. The same applied for shot put attempts — at least until Tracy put the kibosh on that due to the dents the steel balls were making in the yard.
It’s here that Robert, a 1995 Whiteland graduate who for two decades was the school record-holder in track and field’s so-called muscle events, introduced his kids to the intricacies of putting the shot and throwing the discus.
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The results have been noteworthy and, on four occasions, medal-worthy.
Ryder Emberton, the state shot put champion in 2016 and runner-up in discus last spring as a Whiteland senior, is a freshman at Iowa Central Community College. His sister, Reagan, is a junior for the Warriors who placed seventh last season in the discus at the girls state meet.
The youngest of the three siblings, Saylor, is a Greenwood freshman expected be in both events for the Woodmen girls track program when its season starts at New Palestine on April 3.
Three siblings. Three schools. One goal — to win.
“Somewhere around the time he was in sixth grade, I got Ryder started on it because I thought it was something that maybe he would like,” Robert said. “As Ryder can tell you, they’re very difficult sports to learn the right way. But when a kid is decent at something, it’s not hard to get them to practice.”
That’s what Robert did. Standing 6-foot-2, 210 pounds as a Whiteland student, he worked with then-Warriors head coach Charles Blake during practices. Blake knew the basics of shot put and discus, but his strengths as a teacher were in long-distance running events.
To this end, Robert Emberton purchased VHS tapes to videotape himself in order to make any necessary corrections in his form.
As a junior in 1994, he established a new Warriors standard when he tossed the discus 171-9 at the Jennings County Relays. Later that season, he set the shot put mark with a heave of 51-1 1/4 at the Columbus North Sectional.
Twenty-one years later, his son, then a sophomore, erased his father’s name in the record book.
Robert remains involved in the progress of all three of his children. Aside from working with his daughters on proper technique, he’ll occasionally make the eight-hour drive to Fort Dodge, Iowa, to help Ryder in his quest for improvement.
That’s been an ongoing process for Ryder, who aspires to stay at Iowa Central through his sophomore season and then compete for a Division I men’s track and field program in his final two college seasons.
Over the weekend, Emberton placed eighth in the shot put and 14th in the weighted throw at the National Junior College Athletic Association indoor championships in Lubbock, Texas.
“At the time you first start, no one is any good at it,” Ryder said. “But I knew my dad had the discus and shot put records at Whiteland, and I wanted to get them. My sisters saw what I was doing, and it made them want to do it, too.”
Ryder’s thirst for first place was never more evident than at the end of his junior season at Whiteland.
Seeded second in the shot put, the better of his two events in high school, at the state meet, Emberton’s put of 62 feet, ½-inch on his final attempt earned him the title.
It was the culmination of numerous hours spent rehearsing turns in the ring. Even after a Whiteland football practice, Emberton often walked to the ring at his school’s track facility.
“It wasn’t even track season, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking, ‘This is what I had to do better,’” Emberton said.
With Reagan and Saylor attending different Johnson County high schools, there is a strong possibility they’ll compete against one another at the Johnson County (April 17) and Mid-State Conference (May 1) meets. They could clash for a third time at the sectional in May.
Finally, some uncharted territory for a family that has accomplished so much in the shot put and discus.
“My brother doing those events kind of led me to it, but it was dad having done it, too,” Reagan Emberton said. “It’s pretty natural going from one event to another during a meet, but (competing against Saylor) will probably be a little weird.”