Octayvien Sapp picked a good time to post a personal best in the shot put.
The Mariner High School junior threw 50 feet, 7.75 inches and got to spend the rest of last week’s 4A Bi-District meet watching as others tried to match his toss.
None did, giving Sapp the district title and a spot in today’s 4A state track and field meet at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma.
“It’s more fun to be the guy to beat,” Sapp said. “I don’t like to be chasing.”
Sapp had been feeling good in warmups, and knew as soon as the shot left his hand that the throw was something special.
“I felt that it was going to be a good throw and I saw (how far it went),” Sapp said. “Then I could relax. I was surprised at the same time, but it was nice.”
The distance was almost two feet farther than Sapp’s previous personal best of 48-11. He had thrown farther in practice — getting up to the 50-foot threshold that Sapp said “is the goal for all throwers” — but had never thrown 50 feet in a meet.
“He’s been improving in big steps all year,” Mariner track and field coach Dave McFadden said. “He’s improved by two or three feet to get up to 48-11. He’d thrown 50 feet in practice multiple times and put a series of throws together in the 49-foot range, but being relaxed and doing it in practice and putting it together in a meet are two different things.”
McFadden said Sapp is at his best when the junior is relaxed and having fun. At the Wesco League Championships on May 14, Sapp was much more serious and finished with a throw of 46-7, good enough for third place and to advance to the bi-district meet.
“We spend a little bit of time this last week about going there and being relaxed,” McFadden said. “He struggled at the league meet the week before. … He was way too serious. Octayvien’s kind of a relaxed guy and when he threw the 48-11 he was here kind of joking around.”
During Sapp’s big throw at districts, McFadden was judging an exchange zone for the girls 4×200 relay. He didn’t see the throw, but he heard the celebration afterwards, and went to check up on his thrower as soon as he could.
Just like he hoped, he found Sapp very relaxed.
And out in front of the pack.
“Seeing him pop off and improve a foot and a half was fantastic,” McFadden said. “We weren’t as surprised as a lot of people would be, because we’ve seen it at practice. … He was pretty excited. I knew from looking at his demeanor after I got over there. He was just relaxed. There was no stress there. Even if he didn’t win the event, that was a throw that was going to get him to state.”
Said Sapp: “I celebrated for a second and then I looked at everybody. And then I celebrated some more.”
For Sapp, it was almost a feeling of relief.
“I knew I could do it,” Sapp said. “In practice, I’ve thrown (50 feet) but during meets I never really hit it. So in the meet I was like, ‘Whew. I got it.’”
Sapp will be making his first trip to the state tournament. The junior hopes to place in the top eight and get a medal. Sapp’s bi-district throw of 50-7.75 is the 10th-best throw in 4A in the state of Washington this season, according to athletic.net.
“My goal is to get a medal. I always push for that,” Sapp said. “I just want to have fun at state and enjoy the experience.”
McFadden is thinking even bigger.
“The next big goal is to break the school record that’s been around for, geez a long time,” the Mariner coach said. I think it’s 52-6 and it’s been around since maybe 1976.
“We haven’t seen any 52-foot throws in practice yet. But you never know.”