Kim Beard isn’t used to competing against athletes her own age.
The 14-year-old from Mukilteo does the hammer throw, a sport that isn’t common at the middle and high school levels. Therefore she often has to enter collegiate meets just to get the chance to compete.
But when put up against her near peers, Beard proved to be the best in the nation.
Beard led a host of Snohomish County athletes who excelled at the USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships, which took place July 25-31 in Sacramento, California, by winning the national title in the girls ages 15-16 hammer throw.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Beard said about being able to call herself a national champion.
“It was a little stressful,” Beard added. “All the other girls were a lot older. But it was fun, and we all eventually relaxed and were enjoying it.”
Other locals who earned high placings at nationals include Lake Stevens’ Grant Buckmiller, who was second in the men’s 17-18 400 meters and part of the 1,600 relay team that took third; Edmonds’ Adrianna Coleman, who was fourth in the women’s 17-18 discus and fifth in the hammer; and Mukilteo’s Kalia Estes, who was fourth in the women’s 17-18 400 hurdles.
Beard, who’s heading into her freshman year at King’s High School, comes from a hammer-throwing family and has been throwing the hammer since she was 4 years old. This was her first time throwing at Junior Olympic nationals because 15-16 is the youngest division for the hammer — and she was still the only 14-year-old in the competition.
Nevertheless, she threw a personal best of 154 feet, 6 inches with the third of her six throws, setting a new meet record for her age group and besting the rest of the field by more than seven feet. The throw beat her previous best by two feet.
“There was one other girl who was pretty close to me throughout the whole time, and we were kind of edging back and forth,” said Beard, who also qualified for nationals in the shot put, discus and javelin, but only competed in the hammer because the other events conflicted with a drama camp. “She and I were both throwing our personal bests, so we were both on fire in a way.”
Buckmiller, who’s heading into his senior year at Lake Stevens High School, finished third in the 400 at the Class 4A state meet in March. But steady improvements over the summer prodded Buckmiller to faster speeds as he ran a personal-best time of 47.65 seconds in the Junior Olympic finals to finish higher at nationals (second) than he did at state, when he ran at 49.02.
Buckmiller followed up on that by anchoring GLS Speed TC’s entry in the 1,600 relay to a third-place finish. Buckmiller received the baton in fourth, but ran down Track Houston’s anchor runner to get GLS Speed TC into the top three.
“It feels great,” Buckmiller said about winning two medals at nationals. “Everything I worked for this season, this is what it came down to.
“Honestly, I think the weather was such a big part of it,” Buckmiller added about the reason for his improved times. “At state it was raining and cold, and I was a little stiff. It was such a big change running in Sacramento where it was in the high 90s. I felt ready to move and not so uptight.”
Coleman, who’s heading into her senior year at King’s, is a relative newcomer to throwing events. She was a sprinter until last year, when an injury prevented her from running, prompting her coaches to suggest doing the throws just so she could participate.
The switch has worked out big time as she’s on a meteoric trajectory. Last year she went to Junior Olympic nationals in Jacksonville, Florida, and placed 20th in the shot put and 22nd in the discus. This year she set new personal records in medalling in both the discus and hammer: 138-1 in the discus to finish fourth and 149-4 in the hammer to place fifth.
“I had some expectations of what (distances) I wanted to throw, because I threw them in practice,” Coleman said. “I had no expectations of placing or getting on the podium, I just wanted to do what I’d done in practice because it hadn’t happened. It was nice to see that how I practiced found its way into a meet.”
Estes, who’s heading into her senior year at Kamiak High School, was competing at Junior Olympic nationals for the first time. She finished second in her preliminary heat of the 400 hurdles with a personal-best time of 1:02.76, and she improved on that time further in the final when she placed fourth in 1:01.56.