It didn’t take long for Jayden White to etch his name into the University of Washington track and field record books.
Just a few throws, to be specific.
In the very first meet of his college career, the former Everett High School standout surged into second place on UW’s all-time weight throw list with a massive heave of 68 feet, 9 3/4 inches last Friday during the UW Indoor Preview.
“It was a super cool feeling,” White said. “I actually didn’t know it was the second-best mark at UW until the announcer announced it (about 15 minutes later). But yeah, I was super shocked, super excited.”
White opened with marks of 60-11 1/2 and 66-8 1/2 on his first two throws, the latter of which would have placed him third on UW’s all-time list. Then after a foul on his third throw, White launched his fourth throw even farther and moved up to No. 2 in program history.
🚨 One event info the season and we have our first HUGE new entry on the Top-10 lists!
Freshman Jayden White gets the best weight throw mark by a Husky since 1979, when 7️⃣x NCAA Champ Scott Neilson set the record.
— Washington Track & Field (@UWTrack) January 29, 2021
White is already within 3 feet of the school record, which has stood for more than four decades since Scott Neilson threw 71-5 1/2 in 1979. Neilson won seven NCAA national championships — three indoor titles in the weight throw and four outdoor titles in the hammer throw.
“I think it’s definitely a mark that’s in my near future, whether that’s late this season or early next season,” White said. “But I was just trying to go 21 meters at this last meet, and I came within 3 centimeters of (that goal), so I was pretty happy with it.”
As of Friday afternoon, White’s mark ranked No. 13 in Division I this season, according to Athletic.net. He was one of just three non-seniors in the top 13.
“Throwing that distance as a true freshman is unique,” UW throws coach Andrew Ninow said. “… It’s a mark that only one or two freshmen (in the country) will hit per year.”
Ninow said he wasn’t completely surprised, though. After watching and working with White at practices over the last few months, Ninow said he figured the talented freshman was capable of reaching that distance at some point this season.
“Honestly, we’d seen so much good work beforehand, we kind of knew it was a possibility,” Ninow said. “Throwing 21 meters was kind of the goal I definitely thought he was capable of and could accomplish (during) the indoor season. (But) to get so dang close his first meet probably was a little unexpected.”
White started throwing the discus and shot put in middle school, but considered basketball his primary sport until his junior season of high school track and field. That’s when he began excelling in the throwing events and receiving Pac-12 recruiting interest. At the Class 3A state championships that year, White took second place in the shot put and sixth place in the discus.
White’s junior season was also when he began throwing the hammer, which is essentially the outdoor equivalent of the weight throw. (For male athletes, the weight is 35 pounds in college and 25 pounds in high school, while the hammer is 16 pounds in college and 12 pounds in high school.)
White was an exceptionally quick learner. Later that season, he placed third in the all-classification state hammer competition. And that summer, he earned All-American honors by placing seventh in the hammer throw at the USA Track and Field National Junior Olympic Championships.
White also quickly found success in the weight throw, which he took up as a high school senior in September 2019. He went on to place second in the event at last February’s UW High School Invitational and qualified for the New Balance Nationals Indoor Championships. After the New Balance Nationals were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, White was one of six high school weight throwers to be named honorary All-Americans.
“He has a great knack for (the hammer and weight throw), and he’s just a fantastic athlete,” Ninow said. “He can move, he’s athletic, he’s tall and very explosive. So he just kind of has all the tools that are perfect for (those events).
“I think that’s kind of what separates him right off the bat,” he added. “He’s just built for this event — very much like the prototype. If I had to pick a thrower, he would look like Jayden. … And on top of that, he’s a very dedicated worker and he’s worked hard. He’s very focused.”
Ninow said White also possesses a strong “feel” for the hammer and weight throw.
“It’s an event that requires a lot of feel and the ability to be aware of your body’s balance pretty instantaneously and make quick adjustments,” Ninow said. “It’s very much like a good gymnast on a bar. They’ve gotta have an incredible sense of balance and know where their center is. That’s not very innate for a lot of athletes, (but) he just takes to it right away.”
White’s performance last week was his first competition in more than 11 months. He was hoping to compete for multiple state titles as a high school senior last spring, but the season was canceled because of the pandemic.
“It was super tough,” said White, who was named the Everett School District’s male athlete of the year last spring in honor of his career achievements. “I had a lot of big numbers I wanted to chase. I honestly wanted to chase after the state record in the discus at least, and I obviously didn’t get that opportunity, so that was pretty upsetting.
“But I was glad that I’d signed early (with UW). I signed in November (2019), so I was glad I was going to have the opportunity to continue my career at UW and not have the stress of recruiting during COVID. So that part was a positive for me, I guess.”
White said he kept active over the summer by throwing the hammer once or twice a week and doing at-home body-weight workouts that were provided by UW. He also lifted weights at a gym in Bothell when it wasn’t closed due to coronavirus restrictions. In September, he began training as part of the UW program.
White said he plans to focus exclusively on the weight throw for the indoor season. For the outdoor season this spring, he plans to compete in both the hammer and discus.
The goal right now, White said, is to earn a trip to the NCAA Division I indoor national championships, which are scheduled for March 11-13 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. To qualify, he needs to have one of the top 16 weight throw marks in Division I.
“I think he needs another probably 2 feet,” Ninow said. “That should give him a good opportunity to make it to nationals. And that’s kind of our goal right now. … Our big focus is just making sure that he’s fresh now for all of these upcoming meets to try to give him the best opportunity to qualify for nationals, because that’d be an invaluable experience.”
And with his college career only just beginning, White’s future is oozing with potential.
“He possesses the physical attributes and the dedication and the focus to be one of the best weight throwers in the country,” Ninow said. “… All signs point toward this guy competing for championships in the future.
“As long as (he) stays healthy and focused and continues to do those things, he definitely has all those qualities that give him the ability to do so.”