2020 High School Boys MVP — Trey Knight

A national record 261-7 with the hammer sewed up top-athlete honors for Trey Knight. (VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO RUN)

WITH HIS SENIOR SEASON evaporated in the face of the pandemic, Trey Knight (Ridgefield, Washington), a 2-time state titlist in both the shot and disc, went back to work on the hammer and busted the biggest throw in U.S. history. That was the key to his being named T&FN’s top boys HS performer of the year (see sidebar).

Last year’s New Balance champ, Knight only threw in 3 outdoor meets, all in Portland. He opened up on June 6 with the 16-pounder, hitting a 207-4 (his PR of 213-9 came a year earlier). On June 20, he whirled the 12-pounder 243-2. Then a week later, again using the prep implement, he launched his 261-7 HSR on his fifth attempt.

No stranger to the implement, Knight had set the national frosh record at 218-8 in ’17, improved to 233-10 as a soph and then thrown 256-6 as a junior, a mark that had him sitting at No. 3 on the all-time list.

Not bad for a young man who has done most of his workouts this year in his backyard. “We have five acres of land,” he explains. “So we put in a concrete slab and painted a few circles on it and just throw out into the field. Nothing real fancy, but it works pretty good.”

Though he did not compete in the shot or discus—where he has bests of 64-5¼ and 189-4—this season, he says he kept practicing with those implements until he broke the national record. Since then, it has been all hammer. “I’ve definitely been training more with the hammer than I have been previously,” he says, “so that was kind of nice.”

The Portland meets were a perfect fit, just a 20M drive south of Ridgefield. Put on by Scott Skipper’s Super Throwers club, Knight says of the competitions, “We go to a lot of his meets. It’s good to have little meets like that and just throw for distance.

“I knew I was close to the national record. I was definitely feeling confident. But with all the circumstances that happened with COVID and training, I was worried if I was going to be able to have a chance. It’s definitely something that I’ve been chasing since I was a freshman.”

Working with both his grandfather and Todd Taylor, the throws coach at George Fox, Knight feels that his improvement this season came through consistency. Throwing the hammer three times a week was a big jump over previous years, when he hit it perhaps twice a month. “It helped with timing and rhythm,” he explains. “The technique came together.”

The day of the record was cool, temps in the mid-60s and a light breeze. “I was kind of nervous,” he recalls. “I was ready to break it and I was just kind of hoping that it would be that day, but I felt more relaxed this time. Other meets felt like big meets because I put a lot of pressure on myself, but that day, it was more relaxed. Just kind of going out to have fun and not really trying to break the record. Just letting it happen.”

The USC recruit came by his love of the throws honestly. His grandfather, John Gambill, a one-time basketball player, fell in love with the throws later in life and has been instrumental in his coaching. His mother, Heather, was a Washington state champion herself in the shot and had prep bests of 47-½ and 158-11. One year she teamed with her sister and scored 47 points at the state finals, missing the team win by just 3 points.

“It was kind of natural,” Knight says of his trajectory into the throwing world. “It was definitely my fun time with my grandpa, especially when I started out as a kid. We would go out and throw little metal balls for fun. Hanging out with grandpa is how we bonded. It’s something we have together.”

Now 6-2 and 240, Knight finally gave high school football a go in his senior year. “I knew I needed a break from training after four years straight. I was a little bit burned out. And then it was my last year of high school. I had played football all the way to middle school and stopped in high school to focus on track. All my friends and buddies play, and it was my last chance. I thought, ‘Why not?’”

The season went well. Knight was a defensive end and “a little bit of everything offense.” He won All-League honors and even made one compilation of the top 100 Washington players of the season.

“It was a good choice for me,” he says. “I made it out without any injuries. And I had that break, which was nice.” In the end, though, it left him hungrier to achieve his hammer goals.

Though Knight has started his online classes at USC he is still home in Washington. “The teachers are trying to make the best of it, but it’s kind of rough, getting up in the morning and then having to stare at computer screens for four hours and then doing your homework online. It’s a lot of screen time and getting tired of sitting in a chair. I start to get a little antsy sometimes.”

Training is a welcome break. Understandably, Knight is planning to specialize in the hammer for the Trojans. “That’s been the idea the last few years; we’ve been building our way up towards this.”

Still working with Taylor, who is communicating with USC throws coach Dan Lange, Knight says, “The workouts are a lot more intense. I throw and lift on the same day sometimes. I like the school and track aspect of it—having more schoolwork to do and then training. Time management is something I’ve been really working on lately.”

When he’ll actually head to the LA campus remains up in the air. “There’s a few track kids that have already moved onto campus. I think I’ll move once they establish a good training system that I like better than it is at home,” he says.” I have facilities for lifting and throwing here and I don’t have to worry about catching COVID. Once campus gets safer and I can do my actual routine, then I’ll move; that’s pretty much what coach and I have talked about.”

Till then, Knight continues to focus on his future in the hammer: “I definitely feel like I’m getting better now, so that’s good.”