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Shot put natural Kayla Adams has one more shot at state title
Kayla Adams has all the tools needed to throw a shot put a long way. The Thomas Jefferson senior is strong, quick, big and explosive when she steps into the circle.
Adams also has the hardware and records to back that up. As a sophomore, Adams won the biggest prize in Washington when she captured the Class 4A state shot put title.
“She has an amazing amount of natural talent,” said TJ head throw coach Tommy Decker. “She has a physiological gift to be explosive, which has its advantages. Under the right coach, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in the Olympics some day.”
That’s pretty high praise coming from Decker, who has coached several state champions during his time at TJ.
Adams’ incredible amount of natural ability in the throwing events has paid off with a scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Tarheels have one of the most prestigious track and field programs in the nation.
The North Carolina women’s team has won 33 Atlantic Coast Conference championships and the current Tarheel roster includes Brie Felnagle, who won multiple state distance running titles at Bellarmine Prep.
“I just got a call one day and took my visit and fell in love with the state, the campus and the coach,” said Adams, who also got interest from the University of Washington and Washington State, among others. “I already have my roommate. I’m super excited. I hate the rain. I figure it’s the same as going to Southern California. It’s only a plane ride away.”
But before Adams makes the trek to North Carolina, she has some unfinished business coming up today at the West Central District Meet and, eventually, next weekend at the Class 4A State Track and Field Championships. Both meets are at Mount Tahoma Stadium in Tacoma.
Adams has basically led the state in the shot put during her entire four-year career on the Raider track and field team. She set the TJ school record as a freshman, won the state championship as a sophomore and was the prohibitive favorite to repeat that feat last year before coming up short and finishing second.
During a downpour, Mead High School ninth-grader Courtney Hutchinson won the 4A state title with a throw of 42-6 3/4. Adams finished with a toss of 42-3 1/2 after throwing in the 45-foot range all season long.
“It was horrible weather and I did horrible,” Adams said about the 2010 state meet. “Things just went in the other girl’s favor that day. After that I definitely started lifting more weights and don’t want that to happen again this year. Everyone has a bad day and I had a bad day.”
“Last year she got beat by a freshman,” Decker said. “It was a very humbling moment for her.”
But Adams isn’t just looking at winning the shot put state championship. She also has aspirations of hoisting the gold medal in the discus, as well.
“I don’t want to be just a one-time state champion,” Adams said. “I want to be a three-time champion. But if it doesn’t happen, I will still be happy and consider my high school career very successful.”
Adams started her throwing career at Kilo Middle School, even though she has no recollection of competing on the track team.
“I don’t think I was eligible,” she said. “I honestly don’t remember competing, but the coach says I am the school record holder.”
Adams concentrated more on playing basketball during her Kilo days and didn’t get serious about throwing the shot put and discus until midway through her freshman season at TJ.
“My mom said that I had to do something,” Adams said. “I was against it at first. I just wanted to be lazy. Finally, I did it.”
“When she got here, her mom called (TJ Athletic Director Mike) Grady and told him that she wanted her daughter to do track and to have somebody get her out there,” Decker said. “So Paul (Ruston) found her and dragged her out here. She didn’t really have an identity when she came to TJ.”
The light really came on for Adams during her ninth-grade year back in 2008 at the prestigious Bellevue Invitational. That’s when she first realized that she was actually a pretty elite-level shot putter.
During that meet, Adams broke the longest standing record in the Jefferson track and field books with a toss of 41-1 1/2. The old TJ school record was 40-6 by Terry Noble from the 1974 season.
Decker and the rest of the Raider coaching staff thought the 27-year-old record would be broken at the 2008 Bellevue Invitational, but not by Adams. Then-senior Sofia Malamura, who eventually won the shot put state title in 2008, was primed to break Noble’s record at the meet.
“That was her awakening,” Decker said. “Sofia was a senior getting set to break the school record and then Kayla steps in the ring and broke the school record and Sofia was like, what just happened?”
Adams has since taken the TJ school record to 45-5 1/4 and has a goal of throwing 47 feet at the state meet and extending that personal best into the 50’s at North Carolina.
The best shot putters in Division I currently throw in the 58-foot range.
“I’m hoping the whole college thing and training all year round will be great for me,” Adams said. “I think with more training, I will improve a lot as a freshman.”
But first, Adams is looking to get back on top of the podium next weekend.