If you haven’t heard of James Dennis, let me tell you a little about the latest World Champion that our fine city has produced. That’s right, the city of Cleveland can stake claim to another championship thanks to the hard work and dedication of James Dennis.
The 2018 World Masters Track and Field Championships were held in Malaga, Spain earlier this month and James represented the United States (and the city of Cleveland) in the discus. He brought home the championship with a throw of 50.66 meters in his first attempt. For James, it was quite an experience to compete for the red, white and blue.
“It was really awesome. It meant a lot, standing there on the podium, winning fist place and hearing the National Anthem.”
He told me that some athletes take on dual citizenship to increase their odds of getting to the Olympics. He never considered doing so. There are a lot of guys competing at the U.S. Olympic trials. James has done so three times with a top finish of 6th place.
James is a Bedford High School graduate and currently trains at the track there most of the time. He also trains at Warrensville High or any open field he may find while he’s traveling. This isn’t a story of a guy who has had a road paved for him. James works out 3 hours a day in addition to working a full-time job in downtown Cleveland. It hasn’t been easy getting to where he is today either.
After winning the State Title in Ohio in 1994 and being ranked 3rd in the nation, he took his talents to the University of Louisville. Not only did he compete in Track and Field, but he was also a defensive end for the Cardinals, playing with the likes of Deion Branch, Sam Madison and Roman Oben. Unfortunately, James hurt his knee and gave up on the idea of playing in the NFL, despite interest from the Browns and a couple other teams. He chose to stick with a non-contact sport.
He calls his first Olympic Trials in 2000, “incredible and nerve wracking.” He lived at the San Diego Olympic Training Center for the 2004 and 2008 Trials, placing 6th in 2008. A broken femur in 2012 during a co-ed softball game was a setback that James is still working his way back from. He is throwing his best since the broken bone, but it’s still short of what he could throw before it occurred.
James Dennis can throw a 2 kg (about 4.4 pounds) discus about 180 feet right now. His career best is 208 feet. His goals for 2019 are to compete in the US Nationals and increase his distance to about 195 feet. After that, he can aim toward the 2020 Olympic Trials. He told me that he’ll need to be throwing about 200 feet to make the trials. My money is on James Dennis to accomplish his goals.
He competes in about 14 meets each year with most of them being in the United States. The Championship he won was in the Masters division which is for athletes 30 years of age and older. He plans to compete in more Open events in 2019 (18 years of age and up) when the season picks back up in spring. There may be a few more meets this year, but the season is winding up soon.
It was James fiancé Carey Anne Dodd who reached out to Cleveland Sports Talk. James is a humble man. You can hear it when you talk to him. I believe he lets his actions do the talking. Watching him throw a discus is pure poetry in motion. He maintains perfect balance reminiscent of a dancer while in the circle. Carey Anne and James met a year ago and are planning a Valentine’s Day wedding next year. Best of luck to this great couple!
James Dennis is a hard-working man who has done himself and our city proud. Congratulations to James for winning the 2018 World Masters Competition. We wish for you nothing but success and look forward to hearing about future championships!