TACOMA – Sports can elicit a range of emotional responses.
Nolan Van Amen can attest to that.
With tears streaming down his face, the South Kitsap senior hugged his father and coach Renard Williams after he won his fifth individual title with a throw of 61 feet, 2 ¼ inches in the shot put May 25 at the Class 4A state track and field championship at Mount Tahoma High School.
Van Amen appeared poised for another title the following day until his best mark of 171-2 was topped by Skyview senior Connor Jensen on his second-to-last throw. Jensen then exceeded his previous personal best by 13 feet to win the event at 183-7 on his last hurl.
That throw thwarted Van Amen’s dream of becoming the state’s first four-time champion in the discus.
Van Amen, who signed to compete next year at the University of Pennsylvania, won a combined five 4A state championships in the discus and shot in four seasons at South.
“I’m extremely proud of myself, but I just can’t help but think I’ll always look back on this and think what I could’ve done,” Van Amen said. “To make history would’ve been crazy.”
Last year, Van Amen won the discus with a personal-best throw of 184-8. But he struggled to find consistency in the event this season. Van Amen also finished second to Jensen at the May 20 West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament with a 167-9 throw in the shot put.
“This year has been all over the place in discus,” Van Amen said.
But in the shot put, Van Amen was a model of consistency. After his first throw in the finals went 59-10 ¾, Van Amen’s next four hurls exceeded 60 feet. The fifth throw, at 61-2 ¼, propelled him to the title.
“I’ve fought a lot of battles this year,” Van Amen said. “I’ve had a lot of trouble working hard and not seeing a lot of results. When it all comes together at the right time, I’m happy.”
He acknowledged that Jensen’s last throw “scared” him, and did not celebrate until it was measured at 60-8 ¼.
Van Amen credited Williams, who won the 2007 shot put title as a senior at South with a throw of 59-3, for reminding him of the stakes.
“He comes up to me right before and lets me know it’s my last competition and last chance to win,” Van Amen said. “I’m just glad I can keep the history and culture going at my high school.”
Williams was happy the message resonated.
“Explode and put everything you have into each throw like it’s your last,” said Williams, reflecting on his message to Van Amen. “I can walk away and say that he did that.
“I’m proud of him.”