April 24, 2014 in Washington Voices

Steve Christilaw: Legend comes calling at East Valley

Steve Christilaw
 

The fact that Jarred Rome showed up at East Valley High School was cause for a stir among the school’s track and field athletes – especially the ones who throw things.

Rome is track and field royalty – homegrown royalty at that. A graduate of Marysville Pilchuck High, Rome was a two-time national champion at Boise State and a six-time NCAA All-America selection.

More than that, he is a two-time Olympian who has a personal best throw in the discus of 225 feet, 7 inches and a PR in the shot put of 66-11 1/2. Rome’s PR in the discus earned him a No. 3 world ranking in 2011. He was ranked among the top 10 in the nation for 13 consecutive years and was the No. 1-ranked thrower in the nation in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2011.

It’s a lot like having Gonzaga great John Stockton stop by a high school practice to talk about passing a basketball with your team’s point guards – what the girls basketball program at Gonzaga Prep calls afterschool practice.

“The kids were really excited to meet him and talk with him,” EV girls track coach Shane Toy said. “You don’t get the chance to shake hands with someone as accomplished as Jarred every day and word got around fast that he was here.”

But Rome wasn’t visiting just to stop and talk about the shot put and discus with a batch of young throwers.

Rome is the head throws coach at Concordia University in Portland. Operating out of the Concordia Throws Center, Rome took over the program from an even bigger legend in Olympic and Pacific Northwest throwing circles: Mac Wilkins.

In the hierarchy of American throwers, Mac Wilkins, a graduate of Clover Park High in Lakewood, Wash., ranks right behind the great Al Oerter, the first Olympian to win the same event, the discus, in four consecutive Olympic Games, capturing gold in Melbourne (1956), Rome (1960), Tokyo (1964) and Mexico City (1968).

Wilkins was a standout at the University of Oregon, where he was the last thrower coached by the legendary Bill Bowerman. He won the gold medal in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal and took the silver medal behind Wolfgang Schmidt at the 1984 games in Los Angeles. Wilkins missed the 1980 games in Moscow because of the U.S. Olympic boycott. During his career, Wilkins broke the world record in the discus three times.

The Oregon legend wasn’t content to rest on his past laurels. He took on the task of building throwers for the future by becoming the throws coach at Concordia University.

“Mac Wilkins built the throws program at Concordia and turned it into a powerhouse,” Toy said. “He made it into a terrific place for throwers. When he left to go work with the U.S. national team’s throwers last summer, they hired Jarred to take it over and he’s done a great job there.”

Rome, who has scholarships to offer, trekked to East Valley to see Elisha Allred throw the discus, and the Lady Knight didn’t disappoint.

Allred had a season best mark in the discus of 122-4 going into last week’s double dual meet with Clarkston and Colville, where she uncorked a winning throw of 135-7, the best Class 2A throw in the state by more than 17 feet.

But for Rome, the senior posted four throws that sailed more than 140 feet.

“He was really excited when he saw her throw,” Toy said. “He kept saying ‘I want her, I want her!’

“I think Concordia would be a great fit for Elisha and it looks like she’s going to go throw at Concordia.”

Correspondent Steve Christilaw can be reached via email at steve.christilaw@gmail.com.


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