It isn’t uncommon to see an athlete take their game to a new level during their senior year, but what Emily Shaw is accomplishing this spring at North Medford High is to a whole different extreme.
Always someone full of promise when it came to the track and field throwing events, the 18-year-old Shaw is fulfilling those expectations and then some for the Black Tornado in impressive fashion.
On March 22 at her home Bowerman Field, she broke a 14-year-old school record in the shot put with a winning heave of 38 feet, 9 inches in a dual meet with South Medford. Five of Shaw’s throws that day bettered the old mark of 37-6¾ set by Rachel Munyon in 2003.
Shaw and freshman teammate Jaida Ross then played ping pong with the school record last Wednesday in a dual meet with Sheldon, with Shaw ultimately retaining the record by eclipsing the 40-foot mark for the first time at 40-6.
“She basically watched her school record get broken by a freshman on Wednesday and she still had a throw left and took it back,” said North Medford track coach Piet Voskes. “That’s kind of the cool part of this, she’s wanting to leave her mark and she’s being challenged in practice as well as in meets to do so.”
Even cooler than that, Shaw has improved by a whopping 8 feet over this time last year. She hit 32-5 to start her junior campaign after steadily climbing from the 28-foot mark as a freshman to the 32-range as a sophomore. Shaw’s best outing last year was a 35-7 mark that placed her third in the Southwest Conference district meet.
“To increase like she has, in that event specifically, it’s significant,” said Voskes. “That’s a massive amount and she’s doing it consistently, all of her throws now are over 39 and 40 feet. She’s broken the school record now, I believe, eight times.”
Each time out has been more and more fun for the 5-foot-6 Shaw.
“It’s been crazy and so much fun,” she said. “Even now just talking about it, I have the biggest smile on my face just knowing I have done something good and my friends and I can just enjoy the time on the track and I can make my coaches proud.”
To say all of this has come out of nowhere would do a disservice to the work Shaw put in during the offseason, along with the steady help of Tornado throwing coach Aaron Williams.
Still, the fact that Shaw would have the state’s third-best mark in the shot put at this point with a realistic shot at conference and state championships wasn’t really on the horizon at the end of 2016.
“She’s just blossomed,” said Voskes. “She reminds a lot of us of Jason Slowey from 10 years ago, who kind of went through the same thing before he placed second at state in the discus and realized, ‘Wow, this is my senior year.’ When the clock started ticking, she’s just woken up to what her real abilities are and has taken off.”
“She’s got the perfect storm right now,” added Voskes. “She’s extremely driven, she’s put the time in year-round and she’s got a talented freshman pushing her, so pride sometimes wins out. She carries herself with a lot of confidence right now and I think there’s some controlled aggression that she didn’t have previously.”
Shaw certainly agrees with that assessment and credits her time spent last summer at the Iron Wood Thrower Development Camp in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for helping her truly understand how to throw the shot put.
“This last summer I learned so much about technique and throwing to go with all the push I was already getting from my coaches,” she said. “Many of the things I learned at Iron Wood I had known and heard before from my coaches, but I finally actually felt it and felt what I needed to do in the right and proper way. So many people can tell you how this throw goes, but you have to feel it to know how the throws goes, and this year it clicked and I actually knew what it was like to have that good throw.”
And when she eclipsed the 38-foot mark — a necessity to catch the eye of potential college suitors — Shaw said she felt a sense of euphoria and relief all rolled into one unusual outburst.
“Definitely my jaw dropped and I looked over at my coach and I just started laughing,” she said of her first record-breaking throw. “I had no other reaction than straight joy and laughing, and I just went and gave him a big hug. It was super joy and surprise.”
With hopefully no end in sight.
“I’m just not quite satisfied with it yet,” Shaw said of her current PR. “Honestly, you’re in an 8-foot ring with a little ball in your hand and it’s between you and that ball in that ring. You have to give it all you’ve got and sometimes it feels like I could’ve given more. Even when I hit 40, I still felt not as powerful as I could’ve been. Each rep I do at practice now is all about power and drive.”
Those reps are also about keeping pace with a rising star in Ross, who is a welcome addition to Shaw’s training regimen.
“It is definitely having a very good impact on me because my past three years in track I haven’t really had somebody in my own team pushing me,” said Shaw. “It’s such an awesome, healthy competition to push ourselves and motivate each other to do better and what we know each other can do.”
“I was so happy for her when she broke the record, it was so amazing,” she added of Ross. “It hurt a little bit, I’m going to be honest, but I was so happy because she’s a freshman and has so much potential. When she hit that (39-11), I wanted to make sure she got that exact same support that she gave me when I broke it the first time because she really deserved it.”
Shaw said she is comfortable with however it plays out for her the rest of this season.
“All in all, definitely God has been there for me and I’m just truly grateful,” she said. “I can only hope that I have more because honestly that 40 did not feel like it was the end of me.”
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry