Central Valley coach Chuck Bowden watches his senior thrower, Kevin Stanley, take a practice throw from the discus ring during the final track and field practice session before the District Class 4A meet and shakes his head.
“If I only had him for another year the college coaches would be drooling all over him and offering him all kinds of scholarships,” he said.
Stanley, 17, is young for a senior in high school.
“To tell you the truth, there are juniors on our team who are several months older than I am,” Stanley explained. “I still have two years of eligibility left in Junior Olympics – I’ll have a year of college track under my belt before my final season.”
At 6-feet-4 and a shade over 200 pounds, Stanley is a physical specimen who will only improve with his continued dedication to track and field. He was a first-team All-Greater Spokane League defensive lineman for the Bears in the fall and a center on the CV boys basketball team.
This spring, Stanley and fellow senior Billy Rowell lead an impressive group of throwers into the district meet. Bowden fully expects to see six Bears qualify for next week’s regional meet.
Still, Stanley admits to wondering about what might have been.
“I used to complain to my mom about why they didn’t keep me back a year, because they could have,” he laughs. “When I was in eighth grade, she finally said ‘OK, we’ll keep you back a year if that’s what you want.’
“I said, ‘It’s OK, mom. I think I’m good.’ And I stopped complaining.”
The here and now of Kevin Stanley is impressive.
As a senior, he’s improved his shot put distance by almost 3 ½ feet. His personal best from a year ago was 49 feet, 9 ¾ inches. On April 21, he powered past 50 feet with a throw of 51-1. At the Shoreline Invitational nine days later, he added more than a foot to that distance with throw of 52-4, and less than a week after that, in a GSL meet with Ferris, threw 53-2 ½ .
In the discus, he’s added 24-4 to last year’s personal best throw of 130-1.
“I think if we had Kevin for another year here he’d be throwing 180 in the discus,” Bowden predicted.
But perhaps the brightest future for Stanley lies in an event not officially sanctioned by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association: the hammer throw.
“I didn’t take the hammer up until midway through my junior year,” Stanley said. “One of our coaches, Alan Wardsworth, was working with his daughter, teaching her how to throw the hammer and I thought it looked interesting and asked if I could give it a try. The first time I ever threw the hammer in a meet, it went 79 feet.
“Coach Bowden saw me and took me aside. He told me that he thought I could do this event and he encouraged me to stick with it. He said he thought I could do it.”
He was right.
Stanley won the district meet in the hammer and placed first in the regional meet. At the state meet, throwing the day after Star Track officially ended, he placed fifth with a personal best throw of 171 feet.
Remember that number. The winning hammer throw at the national Junior Olympics championship meet in Stanley’s age group a year ago was seven feet shy of that throw.
But Stanley wasn’t at that meet.
“The weekend of the regional Junior Olympic meet was the same weekend as a basketball tournament,” Stanley said. He went back and forth on which way to go. The night before, Bowden texted him to go play basketball. “It had been keeping him up all night, too,” Stanley said.
Now he’s ready to focus on track full time.
“The track coach at Washington State and the coach at Idaho both asked me to come to their school as a recruited walk-on,” Stanley said. “That’s tempting, but my family is in that place where we aren’t eligible for financial aid, but still can’t afford to pay for me to go to a four-year school. So I’m going to go to Spokane Falls Community College and throw out there for a couple years and then see what kind of offers I might get from college track coaches.
“I kind of like that idea. I can work on my throwing there and hit the weight room and get stronger.”
His excitement is palpable.
“When people ask me what I do, I describe track and field as the most frustrating sport in the world, but at the same time, it’s the most rewarding,” he said. “I’ve had days when I’ve wondered why I was even out there. And then there are days that are so incredible that they’re hard to describe.
“When you have a throw and they read off the distance and you realize that it’s a new personal best, it is the most amazing feeling. It makes all that hard work feel so worthwhile. It makes you want to get right back to work and work that much harder.”