Nolan Van Amen wanted to throw far. But he didn’t expect a ball and a disc could would take him so far.
▪ An Ivy League school to head to in the fall, on scholarship.
▪ A 4A state shot put title.
▪ Three state discus championships.
▪ And the chance this weekend to enter a never-before-entered club as a four-time discus champion.
“I’ve had a lot of good times competing in track,” the South Kitsap High School senior said. “And made a lot of memories. And I hope to end with a win again.
“That would just be icing on the cake, man. I just want to come out here and make my family proud of me and do what I love to do – throw some disc and throw some shot.”
He said he sometimes finds the strength to throw these objects so far in the memories of his mother.
Kristin Van Amen died in June 2012 of coronary artery disease. It was her birthday last week when Van Amen was trying to qualify for state in the shot put.
He said he pointed to the sky just before he threw a personal-best in the shot put with a throw of 61 feet, 2 inches.
She’s his inspiration. He became a bit of a track prodigy, becoming a national discus champion competing in Wichita, Kansas, in 2011.
His mom published an all-caps post on her a Facebook saying how proud she was.
“She always freaked out about that stuff,” Van Amen said.
Then in 2013, he set the national 13-14 age group record with his 205-foot throw on a July 28 day in Greensboro, North Carolina. It’s still the record.
“I gravitated toward discus because I just liked how much farther it flew,” Amen said.
His personal-best high school throw of 184-8 came at Mount Tahoma for last year’s state title.
But being the first thrower in the state to ever win four titles in one event – that won’t be a cakewalk.
Longtime competitor Connor Jensen of Skyview beat Van Amen for district titles in both the shot and disc at French Field last weekend. They’ve been competing with each other since the eighth grade.
But to ruin Van Amen’s bid to enter state track and field lore?
“Dude, I would be more than happy,” Jensen whispered, with Van Amen practicing throws nearby. “I love him, but I haven’t won state once. That is one of my huge goals.”
There’s been three-time champions before. Ferris’ Damon Unland won three in a row from 2011-13 before Van Amen began his run, but before that Alex Fletcher won three straight 1B titles from 2009-11 and Tumwater’s Kevin Clark won three 3A titles in a row from 1990-92.
There have been three three-time shot put champions and four three-time state javelin champions.
He began in the sport in running events when he was 6 and began throwing in the fifth grade. He learned by searching videos, studying Olympians and perfecting his technique.
Now others try to copy him.
Jensen turned to Van Amen.
“Nolan, last year, I legit tried to copy your shot put. Not even joking,” Jensen said, and he demonstrated Van Amen’s throw, which included twitching his hand.
“But his ... legs are like ham hocks. He gets a ton of power with his legs. An honestly, his technique – his technique is amazing.”
Van Amen has the best discus throw in the state this year, 179-11. It came in sunny Arcadia, California.
But no matter what happens this weekend, Van Amen said he just wants to make his family proud. He’ll head to the University of Pennsylvania next year, something he said he never expected would come from being able to throw something far.
“There’s not really any point to be nervous. You just have to go in confident and expect to win,” Van Amen said.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
THREE-TIME STATE THROWING CHAMPIONS
South Kitsap’s Nolan Van Amen could be the first in WIAA state championship history to win four consecutive state discus championships, all coming in the 4A classification. Here’s all the three-time throwing champions:
Nolan Van Amen, South Kitsap — 2014-16
Damon Unland, Ferris — 2011-13
Alex Fletcher, North River —2009-11
Kevin Clark, Tumwater — 1990-92
Bruce Anderson, Naselle —1979-81
Mike Shill, East Valley of Spokane) — 1978-80
John Anderson, Naselle — 1976-78
Curtis Clauson, King’s — 2009-11
Bob Rockett, Willapa Valley — 1980-82
Dave Baker, North Kitsap — 1945-47
Lloyd Fassett, White Salmon —1937-39
TJ Cotterill: firstname.lastname@example.org