Peninsula senior Ben Smith entered the season with a big goal: Win a state title.
But after a muscle strain in his elbow sidelined the javelin thrower for about a month, Smith wasn’t sure if he’d be able to put forth his best effort at the Class 3A state track meet at Mount Tahoma High School last weekend. Any fears were put to rest, as Smith threw a lifetime best 184 feet, 8 inches, to claim a second place finish at state.
“Since my elbow injury, I hadn’t made much progression this year,” Smith said. “To get 184-8, that’s a personal best by nine and a half feet. That’s a pretty big deal.”
Right before Smith went up to make his final throw — which would be his lifetime best — his friend and teammate Austin Kilcup had some words of encouragement.
“I told him this is the last throw of your senior year,” Kilcup said. “After he threw it, he almost walked off in a daze, it kind of just hit him. It was a great throw.”
Smith finished just behind Carlos Riojas of Mount Spokane High School, who threw 185-00. While it’s simple to look at how close he was and wonder if there’s any disappointment, Smith said there isn’t any.
“I was really pleased with how I did,” Smith said. “Obviously, you can say, ‘Look how close I was.’ But with a personal improvement of nine feet, you can’t complain too much.”
Kilcup, a junior, took seventh at 167-04.
“It was a pretty cool thing,” Smith said. “Him taking seventh was awesome. We’ve bonded quite a bit through track, it means quite a bit to me.”
Kilcup shared similar thoughts, saying the two have become good friends over the year.
“It was almost like being up there with a brother,” Kilcup said. “We’re really close, we hang out a lot. Practice is one of the best things. It meant a lot to be up there with him in his last year as a Seahawk.”
Kilcup, who just missed the state podium last year, was thrilled to be on it this year.
“It was pretty surreal,” Kilcup said. “I wasn’t sure I was going to make it this year. It was really fantastic to get up there as a junior.”
Smith said one of his favorite memories of the season was playing “jolf,” a game that involves throwing the javelin at a water bottle or cone.
“We do it for fun to keep our arms warm, but not work them too hard,” Smith said. “It’s a personal favorite between Austin and me.”
Yes, they’re friends, but there’s a friendly rivalry between the two state placers, too.
“He’s never beat me in a meet, and I like to remind him of that,” Smith said, laughing.
Kilcup said he doesn’t have much of a comeback for that.
“I always tell him it’s because he’s older, but that doesn’t really mean very much,” Kilcup said. “The closest I’ve been was about a foot-and-a-half. I don’t think I could come up with a rebuttal. He executes at the right time consistently.”
On the girls side, junior Erica Hanisch took eighth overall in the javelin at 116-03. Junior Sarah Manning competed in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races, taking 16th in both events. Manning said she wasn’t feeling at full strength.
“I did really well last week; I felt like I was hitting a peak,” Manning said. “I don’t know. I just felt crappy today.”
Manning, who is also a star on the cross country team, said she’ll use last weekend’s disappointment to push her going forward.
“Even though I did terrible, this will just fuel me for cross country, and I’ll be back really strong,” Manning said.
Junior Michala Zilkey took eighth in discus with a distance of 118 feet, 4 inches.
Jon Manley: 253-358-4151 email@example.com Twitter: @gateway_jon