LAKEWOOD – As a freshman, Paige Shimkus won the javelin at her first meet.
“I was shell-shocked,” she said this week. “From that moment on it became a passion. It felt so natural doing it.”
The throw was 108 feet. She said the boys and girls throw together at practice, so she thought she was in the middle of the pack. Turns out, she threw very far for a girl. “It was something I could be exceptional at,” she said.
Now a senior, Shimkus just missed breaking her personal record at a meet the other night, falling 6 inches short at 132-feet, 3 inches.
The Lakewood High standout has earned a track scholarship to Western Washington University, where the javelin coach had young women throw 180 feet who weren’t as good as Shimkus in high school. “He sees raw potential” in me, she said.
If she can reach those marks, Shimkus might be able to fulfill her dream. “There’s nothing I want more than to be an Olympian.”
But first things first. After placing fourth at state as a freshman, she fell to sixth as a sophomore and last year was ninth.
“The competition’s gotten progressively harder,” Shimkus said, adding her throw last year would have won state the previous year. “This year will be a dogfight for sure.”
For about 2 1/2 hours, she waited to compete. The shadows kept getting longer on the bright green turf of the new field at Lakewood stadium.
The temperatures, which were near 70, dropped to the low 50s as Shimkus tried to stay warm, layered in workout clothes. She stretches and does various exercises to stay warm and loose.
As the hurdles are put away and volunteers sweep the sand off the track where the long jumpers competed, it’s finally her turn. It’s right at dusk.
Most of the fans have left. But that doesn’t bother her. “You’re competing against yourself. It’s peaceful,” she said.
That’s actually one of the reasons she likes the sport. “It’s so relaxing. It’s not like a team sport,” she said.
“If it’s a bad day no one else has to suffer for it,” she said, adding if she’s having an off day, “There’s no fixin’ it.”
Shimkus steps off her approach. It’s about 20 or so yards behind the line. Most of the other competitors don’t have approaches that long.
That might be one of the reasons she stands out in the event. But there are others.
“There’s nothing I won’t sacrifice for it,” she said.
All in the details
Shimkus likes to “analyze everything.”
That might be why she wants to be a scientific journalist – writing about science findings in a way the average person can understand.
It’s also why she might have chosen the javelin. It’s not like other track events where you run your fastest or longest or jump as far or high as you can or heave something as hard as you can. Javelin is all about technique. Shimkus never would have even picked up the 1.32 pound, 7 feet 2 1/2 inch-long spear if not for her middle school physical education teacher, Tasha Kryger, who coaches javelin at the high school.
Shimkus said Kryger noticed she had a hard serve in volleyball, and that motion is similar to throwing a javelin. Since that first successful meet, they have worked together on form, studying videos of the best javelin throwers. “Any resource we could get our hands on,” Shimkus said.
She also works hard in the weight room. And she does yoga and stretches a lot to avoid injury, which are more common than you might think, she said. The javelin squad on the Cougar track team is huge, sometimes with 30 members.
Shimkus said that’s because of Kryger. She said while other squads on the track team are always serious and trying to set personal records, Kryger is all about them having fun and making memories.
“It’s magic how professional she is without making it stressful,” Shimkus said.
Lots of interests
Creed, Daughtry and Nickelback are some of her favorite rock groups, but she likes all music, except country.
She admits to playing a video game often called “Skyrim, a nerdy fantasy game where the quest is to kill dragons, but there’s also political tension.”
She’s one of two 4.0 students who are valedictorians for the Class of 2018. She’s on the National Honor Society and for the third year was on the school’s Knowledge Bowl team that just missed going to state. She was also on the school’s volleyball team that just missed state.
She ran for student body office this year for the first time – and was elected senior class president.
She has taken Running Start classes from Everett Community College online and will graduate in June both with her high school diploma and associate in arts degree.
She’s in rhythm
Though she never played in the school band, Shimkus also plays drums. She said her sense of rhythm also may be a reason for her javelin success.
“I found that beat,” she said of the rhythm of her approach to throwing.
At the end she plants her left foot, rotates her hips for torque and follows through in a linear motion with her shoulder and arm.
She has thrown so much now that it is up to her muscle memory. “It can be overwhelming if I think too much,” she said. “I’m cemented in the fundamentals.”
After finishing eighth in the nation for her age group in the Junior Olympics as a sophomore, Shimkus started working out at a gym in Stanwood “specific to my event. That was a game-changer,” she said, adding her distance went from 120 feet to the mid-130s. She has goals this year of hitting 140 feet then 150.
Shimkus said she had interest from NCAA Division 1 schools in Florida, the Dakotas and Idaho, but she chose Division 2 WWU.
“Their javelin program is consistently good. That’s where I need to go,” she said.