Still wearing her sweats and a Stanford University shirt over her Shenendehowa uniform, Jill Shippee only did a small shuffle before tossing her first practice shot put.
There was no real windup. She hardly used her legs. No grunt escaped her mouth.
The shot landed just past the 40-foot mark — a distance no other female competitor touched at any point during Monday morning’s Section II indoor track and field state qualifier.
“This has been her year,” Saratoga Springs senior thrower Grayce French said of Shippee.
When things got going for real, the Shenendehowa junior won the competition with a shot of 43-1. French also qualified for the upcoming state championships with a second-place throw of 39-11, giving Shippee a victory margin of more than three feet.
Not bad, especially for her second-best event.
Shippee — who was a first-team Suburban Council soccer selection this past fall as a goalkeeper — is Section II’s best this season in the shot put, but she’s making a bid to be the country’s best in the weight throw. Through Feb. 14 action tracked by milesplit.com, a national database for the sport, Shippee’s mark of 60-43⁄4 in the weight throw at a Jan. 31 event is No. 1 in the United States for high school girls.
Last winter, Shippee finished in seventh place at the state championships in the shot put and fourth in the weight throw. A year prior, she just wanted to be finished with throwing. After starting with the sport in the spring of her eighth-grade year — Shenendehowa throwing coach Scott Dochat had recruited her from a middle-school physical education class — Shippee was not sure if she wanted to spend her high school years throwing.
“I didn’t really like it,” said Shippee, who also played basketball and softball before high school. “I wanted to quit.”
She didn’t, and that was a good choice. In the course of a few years, Shippee has gone from not knowing anything about throwing events — “I really just thought track was all about running,” she said — to starting a few mornings a week opening her latest college recruiting letters in homeroom.
That last part started in earnest a couple weeks ago. There was about a week of lag time after her personal-best weight throw mark at the close of January, and then the letters started showing up in abundance one morning.
“I had a whole pile,” said Shippee, who recently visited Stanford and has received interest from most Atlantic Coast Conference schools in track and field.
The weight throw was an event at the state championships for the first time last year, and it will be a scoring event for the first time at this year’s Section II divisional championships. At practices, Dochat said his throwers usually spend more time on the shot put and start off with that event before working on the weight throw.
“The problem is that the weight is so heavy,” Dochat said. “It takes a lot out of you.”
(For girls, the shot weighs almost nine pounds; the weight is about 20.)
In both the shot put and weight throw, Shenendehowa athletes have led Section II this season. Shippee is the area’s best in both events on the girls’ side, while senior Michael Jeffers — who won Monday’s shot put event ahead of Greenwich’s Kyle Boddery — has led Section II boys in each discipline.
Jeffers and Shippee have helped to nurture their team’s less-experienced throwers. Bri Jordan, a rookie thrower as a junior, finished in fifth place Monday behind Shippee and said her classmate has been like a coach to her.
“It’s always inspiring, 100 percent, to have someone in your grade that you can ask for help like that,” Jordan said.
A relatively small group, Section II’s throwers tend to share that friendly disposition with each another. When the state meet rolls around, the goal is to band together even more.
“We want to prove Section II is one of the best in the state,” said French, who is committed to compete collegiately for Clemson University.
And later, one of the best in the nation. Shippee — who will compete in the weight throw at Thursday’s Millrose Games in New York City before Friday’s sectional championships — has already qualified for the March 11-13 New Balance Nationals Indoor championships. At that competition, she will at least compete in the weight throw, and will get the chance to make good on her No. 1 ranking with a national championship.
“In reality,” Dochat said, “it’s what you do in that competition that matters.”
Jeffers (Shenenendehowa) 52-23⁄4, Boddery (Greenwich) 47-91⁄2, Washington (Ballston Spa) 47-51⁄2, Davis (Bethlehem) 46-103⁄4, Bruns (Shenendehowa) 46-81⁄2.
Shippee (Shenendehowa) 43-1, French (Saratoga Springs) 39-11, Klein (Cobleskill-Richmondville) 36-71⁄2, Robens (Mechanicville) 35-8, Jordan (Shenendehowa) 35-4.
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Categories: High School Sports