Gateway: Sports

Tides sophomore tried track to stay in shape for football. Now he’s a top javelin thrower

Gig Harbor’s Jake Jennings discusses sophomore javelin season

Gig Harbor’s Jake Jennings discusses sophomore javelin season
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Gig Harbor’s Jake Jennings discusses sophomore javelin season

Heading into this spring, Jake Jennings had no idea he’d be throwing javelin for Gig Harbor High School. The sophomore defensive end just wanted to use track to stay in shape for football, and maybe work on his speed a bit.

But Gig Harbor track coach Kevin Eager and javelin coach George Fairhart — also the school’s head football coach — saw some potential in the sophomore with the javelin.

“He’s a gifted athlete,” Fairhart said. “He’s tall, has long arms and he’s explosive. He’s a real athlete.”

Those are the kinds of traits that make Jennings an ideal defensive end for the Tides football team. He thought his future in track was in other events.

“I thought I was going to be sprinting,” Jennings said. “I had never done javelin before. I played baseball before, but throwing javelin is a little different because you have to throw over the top. In baseball, it’s more to the side.”

Whatever Eager and Fairhart saw, it didn’t take long for Jennings to show his potential. On April 13 at the Willamette Falls Invitational in Oregon, Jennings threw a personal record 181 feet, 5 inches. That’s a mark that puts him in the top 10 around the state at the moment, for all classifications.

“I was just feeling good that day,” Jennings said. “Everything seemed to come together. I just felt like I would throw far, that day. I wasn’t really trying to, it just sort of happened. I wasn’t focusing on anything. I just felt like I had figured it out. It felt like I wasn’t holding the javelin when I threw it. It felt really light.”

Fairhart said the competition brought out the best in Jennings that day.

“I think that helps any kid when you step up against really good competition,” Fairhart said. “He came out from his first throw and every throw, he kept improving until his third or fourth throw, which was the 181. He was just ready to go that day. There was really good competition, so he was surrounded by other good throwers. The conditions were good. Everything came together.”

Jennings, who lived in Australia with his family and some relatives for four years before moving to Gig Harbor in eighth grade, said Fairhart has been a good teacher in his first year throwing.

“He focuses a lot on throwing over the top,” Jennings said. “Now we’re just focusing on trying to get more reps in, so I don’t get tired as easily. Just building up that endurance.”

Fairhart said Jennings has not only taken to the event but to coaching as well.

“He’s gifted athletically, but he’s also very coachable,” Fairhart said. “He’s picked up on technique. It’s challenging for kids who have never thrown before, because typically, they want to throw the javelin like a baseball. It’s not the same. He’s been willing to break those habits. He’s been good at it. If we ask him to do something, he can mentally and physically do it.”

By the time he’s a senior, Fairhart thinks Jennings will hit the 200-feet mark.

“I don’t think that’s unrealistic,” Fairhart said. “He’s a sophomore and he’s throwing 180 and he’s not even done this year. 200 feet is not that far away. … He’ll get there.”