Then & Now with Mike Shill: Fitness over titles
Mike Shill says he still sports a scar, the result of a weight lifting incident as a youngster at East Valley.
“My dad (Bob Shill) and Howard (Dolphin) were spotting me on the bench and didn’t spot well,” Shill recalled. “The bar came right down on my chin.”
Now 46, Shill still pushes weights avidly, but it is primarily all via machine as part of a daily fitness routine. He’s a sculpted 185 pounds, some 40 pounds below his top weight as a standout high school and college athlete.
Proper eating habits and six-mile runs, coupled with lifting, have done the trick.
“I made a pretty concentrated effort not to get fat after my college years were done,” said Shill. “I got on a pretty good eating diet and do workouts.”
It was nearly 30 years ago that Shill, who played football for his dad at EV and for two Big Sky Conference schools, was the pre-eminent Spokane shot putter for Knights track coach Dolphin. Shill’s 64-foot, 8 ½-inch best in 1980, which shattered the old mark by four feet, stood as the local record for a decade.
That year he won all three throwing events in the State AA (current 3A) track meet in Seattle, capturing the shot for the third straight year in a meet-record 64-7, the javelin in a personal-best 212 feet and capping the feat a day later with a 172-2 discus toss (his career best was 181-7).
“I expected to win all three and I did,” said Shill, who returned to the Spokane Valley from California in 1998. “The track coach at Washington came over and said, ‘you can have a scholarship if you want to bow out of football,’ but it was kind of too late.”
Shill had already committed to play fullback for Sonny Lubick at Montana State. After two years, he transferred to Idaho under Dennis Erickson, where in 1984 he ranked sixth in the league in rushing with 521 yards and was named to the All-Big Sky second team.
Armed with a degree in finance, Shill worked three years for Chevron in California before switching jobs. Today he works for Automated Data Processing (ADP), which installs payroll systems at large firms.
“To make a long story short,” he said, “I can work anywhere. I got tired of California and the crowd back there.”
He works out of his home half the time and is on the road half the time. This week, said Shill, he’s in Cincinnati.
Shill began weight lifting in the seventh grade and weighed more than 220 pounds by the time he was a sophomore at EV. In the Knights’ offense, the bullish and explosive back – in a story in The Spokesman-Review he was listed with a 4.7 40-yard sprint time – became an instant star.
He exceeded 60 feet in the shot put as a sophomore in winning his first state title, improved that the next year and placed in both the discus and javelin during the Knights’ team title year of 1979. Then came the heralded senior season when his 30 points (out of EV’s 31), brought home a fourth-place team trophy.
“The harder thing was playing football for my dad,” Shill recalled. “I thought I had to do twice as good because, for a lot of parents, no matter how good you are if you’re a coach’s son you shouldn’t be playing. But it worked out fine.”
As for his track career, it is the javelin that still has him wondering how good he might have been. Shill said he never had great form, merely took advantage of his quickness and “armed” it.
“I think I was too short for the discus and shot put (for college), to be honest,” he said. “I wanted to move on and play football.”
After football ended, Shill had the opportunity to be a graduate assistant or leave sports altogether. Although, he says, it beats him why.
“I chose the latter,” he said. “I wanted to do something different and thought Chevron was a cool deal.”
After returning, he was married four years ago and his wife, Bune, is a West Valley teacher.
Besides his physical fitness routine – “It gets ingrained in your brain, although it’s definitely harder when you get older and I’m not as anal as I was 15 years ago” – Shill enjoys driving high-performance, “Miami Vice”-type boats on Lake Coeur d’Alene and on Lake Havasu in Arizona.
“They’re the loud ones that people on Lake Coeur d’Alene don’t like,” he said.
But aficionados also put on a performance-boat regatta, “a show-and-shine,” he said, in Carlin Bay and last summer raised $7,000 for the American Lung Association.
“Today, I’m just trying to make a living,” Shill said. “I live right behind University High and wander over when there’s a track meet.”
Memories of his stalwart career 28 years ago rush back with few regrets.
“Other than between my sophomore and senior years I felt I should have progressed five feet a year. I threw 62-something as a sophomore and didn’t progress at all as a junior,” said Shill. “I know I was a lot stronger (a 370-pound bench press) as a senior.”
Still, his 1980 accomplishment, winning three throwing events in one state meet, was unprecedented. And hasn’t been equaled in any classification.