SHELTON — It marked the culmination of a good week for South Kitsap senior Shannon Laupola.
After signing to compete next season at Western Washington University, Laupola won the javelin with a throw of 125 feet, 7 inches, during the 55th Shelton Invitational on May 2 at Highclimber Stadium.
“It felt good to pop that one,” said Laupola, whose personal-best mark was 129-08 at last year’s Class 4A district meet. “Last time I [threw 125] was the second meet of the season and I haven’t been able to bring it back up. It boosted my confidence a lot.”
Athletes sometimes struggle on short rest. But Laupola feels she benefited from competing May 1 at Yelm in a 4A Narrows League meet.
“I thought it was a good warm-up meet,” Laupola said. “It was the same concept with a grass field, so I felt prepared.”
Laupola, who participated in three sports in each of the last two years with the Wolves, had a different offseason this time. She joined several of her teammates who participated in the University of Washington’s track clinics, which occurred during Wednesday nights from November to February. Laupola received instruction from UW assistant coach T.J. Crater there.
“It was a good experience for all of us,” Laupola said. “I think it gave us a little bit of a head start for track season.”
She participated in basketball during her first two years at South, but did not play that sport during the winter because she sprained her right ankle late in volleyball season. Laupola said the ankle feels good now.
Another adjective — great — would describe her feelings toward her college selection. Laupola said she signed April 29 with Western Washington University, where she plans to major in business and throw the javelin.
“The coaches reached out to me and offered me to come up and look at the campus,” said Laupola, adding that she has received several expressions of interest from other coaches during the last year, but nothing that appealed to her. “I fell in love with it.”
But before she heads to Western, Laupola has a simple goal: to better her performance last year at state, where she finished 11th at 110-06. Co-coach Paul Zimmer feels Laupola is capable of plenty.
“I think there’s still more in her,” he said. “We’re not quite there to peak.”
Laupola was the Wolves’ top placer in the field events. After winning both the discus and shot put during the previous two weeks at invitationals in Snohomish and Bellevue, sophomore Nolan Van Amen finished second in each at Shelton. North Beach’s Caleb Bridge (169-06) outlasted Van Amen (163-10) in the discus. Meanwhile, Eatonville’s Justin Kaelin (58-08) won the shot put against Van Amen (55-02).
“It’s just a matter of going up against a couple of seniors,” Zimmer said. “This is the first time here at Shelton that he’s been really pushed. It was good for him to feel that little pressure that he doesn’t get every week.”
Senior Cole Sunkel also finished second at an invitational for the third consecutive week. He placed second in the javelin at 181-0 behind Central Kitsap’s Hudson Keffer (183-09). Again, Zimmer stressed that placement was a byproduct of the competition.
“The CK thrower — the guy is a stud,” he said.
South had two first-place finishes on the boys side. Senior Mason Villarma won the mile in 4 minutes, 19.36 seconds.
Villarma then teamed with Albert MacArthur, Troy Delgado and Izaijha Byrd to win the 1,600 relay in 3:25.99. That was a significant improvement from their 3:31.13 time in Bellevue, where Byrd was not able to compete in that event.
“He was just a little tight up in the groin area,” Zimmer said. “We were just being really cautious with him.”
That does not mean the team was at full strength even with Byrd back. Delgado, who normally runs the first leg, ran the second in 53 seconds. Zimmer said that is about 3 seconds slower than usual.
“Troy wasn’t feeling too well before, so we flipped the order a bit,” said Zimmer, who usually follows Delgado with MacArthur. “We faced a little adversity and the guys handled it really well.”
MacArthur also had success in an individual event. The junior finished second in the long jump at 21-07 after Olympic’s Keshun McGee (21-07 1/4) edged him during the final leap. Despite that, Zimmer felt it was a good experience for MacArthur.
“I think it was a good confidence booster for him,” he said.
Those performances helped the Wolves win the boys team title with 70 points. Pasco was second with 43. South’s girls team finished 17th with 17 points. Federal Way placed first with 55.5
Zimmer lauded several other performances, including the girls 1,600 relay. That quartet finished in seventh in 4:18.26, which Zimmer said was 5 seconds better than their previous best. He also liked that Shelton offered events specifically to freshmen and sophomores, which gave his youthful athletes some experience.
“They’re always kind of at the bottom half of the meet,” Zimmer said. “It’s good for them to get a little bit of exposure.”
While Shelton was the final invitational of the season for the Wolves, they will return to Highclimber Stadium for the Class 4A Narrows League meet, which runs May 14-16. Zimmer noted that several of his athletes commented on the differences between Shelton and other locations where they have competed. He said those ranged from the black track, which is faster than some places, to the wood boards used for jumps.
“There’s some nuances,” Zimmer said. “The kids are used to having routines, so it’s good to get those shakes out. Now we can adapt.”