by Andrew Garda
SOMERSET—It was lit.
That’s how Montclair High School track and field’s Shelby Bigsby would describe her efforts during last weekend’s NJSIAA Group IV championships at Franklin High School.
When an athlete takes first place in both the shotput and discus, dropping personal records and breaking a Group IV record in the process, she can call it whatever she wants.
There’s no argument about calling it worthy of a spot at the Meet of Champions, which will be held this Saturday, June 9, at Northern Burlington Regional High School.
Bigsby will have company, as she’ll be joined at the MoC by Nyjah Young-Bey, who will be a wild card in the 100 meter and 200 meter races, as well as the 4×400 meter relay, where Young-Bey will run with Elizabeth Cummings, Rachel Handelman and Ella McAdams.
Head coach Sophia Kenny was very pleased with her team’s efforts over the course of the weekend.
“I felt really good coming in,” she said after the event. “Now that we’re done, some of the things I wish we could have done a little bit better at, but I’m extremely proud of the effort that each athlete gave. Some good performances, some PRs. Saw some smiles on kids faces after they finish their runs, That’s something you can be happy about.”
As was the case during Sectionals, heat seemed to play a factor for many of the runners, especially during distance events. The humidity on both Friday and Saturday was hard to walk in, much less run, and seemed to sap some of the energy out of a few Mounties.
It definitely factored in for Dale Ross in the 3200 meter on Saturday, as he couldn’t finish due to it, It also seemed to drag down the 4×800 team on Friday, contributing to their finish just out of Wild Card range.
Add in some extremely tough competition and the Mounties occasionally found themselves in a tough uphill climb to make it to the Meet of Champions. The top two of each event were guaranteed spots, followed by the six best times or distances, which earned wild card berths.
Kenny felt the team gave their all and, really, that’s all she could ask for.
“I’m just overall happy and proud of everybody,” she said. “I was really excited going into Groups. I am just as happy and excited now. It was a good weekend.”
For Bigsby, things kicked off on Friday with shotput, an event where she normally dominates.
She cruised into the finals easily, with a throw of 46 feet, five inches, then immediately topped that with a 46 foot, 11 inch throw. Bigsby fouled her second throw, but saved the best for last, throwing exactly 49 feet to take first place.
It was the farthest she had ever thrown in an outdoor meet. It was also a longer throw than anyone had ever thrown in a Group IV state meet, breaking a record set by Plainfield’s Nicole Sims — back in 1991.
After easily winning the shotput, Bigsby wasn’t done yet.
During the finals for girls discus, Bigsby again threw for a personal best. Her toss of 132 feet, 10 inches beat her previous personal best of 121 feet, 9 inches. The throw was also a Mountie record and gave her first place in the event, which secures her a prime berth for both discus and shotput for the upcoming MoC.
“Shelby had an amazing weekend, winning two events, walking home after setting new meet and school records,” Kenny said. “Definitely a great day for her.”
Beating your best by over ten feet during the finals of a Group meet is impressive, but Bigsby has risen to the occasion in big moments every time this year.
That said, she pushed herself a little harder this past weekend.
“I think I probably felt more hungry,” she said after winning the discus event. “I kind of had something to prove. I think a lot of people expected me to come out the gate, already throwing 50. Because I did it in indoor so early.”
Bigsby said that not meeting those expectations didn’t bother her, but definitely made some outsiders think twice about her ability.
“I feel like because the beginning of my outdoor season was so slow, a lot of people started to doubt me,” Bigsby said. “It’s not like my success is generated around other people, but I want to show people that it’s not always how you start, but it’s how you finish.”
While the winter season may have set other people’s expectations a bit high, for Bigsby it was really where this weekend’s performances were created.
For her, all the hard work and sweat was worth it.
“[It paid off] like, 40,000 percent,” Bigsby said. “In the winter, it’s like practice for outdoor. People ask me what was important and I’m like “weight room, weight room, weight room,” because all I did in winter was the weight room. Just being able to build up your strength, conditioning, your core — that’s what pushed me to hit 49 and 132 this weekend. That’s probably the biggest impact, just staying strong and being conditioned. That and drills are what pushed me to get where i am right now.”
Bigsby is certainly finishing her Mountie career in grand fashion and can only continue to build on it during the Meet of Champions. If she raised the bar for her spring during winter meets, she has raised it even further with last weekend’s performances.
She’s fine with that, and in fact, is raising her own expectations even higher.
“This coming week, my focus is to hit 50 for shot,” Shelby said. “And for disc…”
She stops, laughing at herself, clearly amused at what she thinks is audaciousness.
“Because it’s on a stand throw….I already hit 132, so I guess it’s a little outrageous, but my goal would be 140.”
Ultimately, Bigsby just wants to improve each week, until she’s done with her high school career.
“I just want to continue to perform because my last official meet will probably be Nationals,” she said. “So, just to get there and finish my high school career how I want to.”