Sam Washington is back.
One of the top shot put, discus and hammer throwers in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, Washington is back at Saint Martin’s University after a two-year absence.
In 2009, Washington decided he wanted to purse a major in 3-D design. Because Saint Martin’s didn’t have that as an option, he decided to leave Lacey for the Art Institute in Portland. For two years Washington – an All-American with five SMU records – didn’t compete.
“That was incredibly difficult,” said Washington, the first Saints thrower to earn All-America honors when he placed seventh in the shot put at the 2008 NCAA Division II outdoor track and field championships.
“It was the most challenging aspect of my athletic career for being gone two years. I tried to find a way to get back into it.”
Washington, a senior from Lincoln High, eventually realized design wasn’t for him, and switched majors to sociology. With that change, he decided to return to Saint Martin’s and track and field.
He was rusty at first, and he said it took most of the 2012 season and a lot of work to find his form. He came up big at the GNAC championships last May, earning all-conference honors three times – a first-place mark in the shot put (55 feet, 21/4 inches) and third-place finishes in the discus (154-5) and hammer (177-9) to rack up 22 of the Saints’ 631/2 team points, which placed the team sixth.
This season has presented a new challenge for Washington. Because of NCAA guidelines on how much time student-athletes have to complete their eligibility, Washington couldn’t participate in early season workouts or get
coaching from the Saints’ staff. The eligibility clock was ticking during those two years away, so he was allowed to begin training only in January.
That meant for more than two months he was training and working out on his own, which has made the outdoor season a bit tougher because of limited practice time.
Still, he won a conference title – his fifth in his career – in the weight throw at the GNAC indoor championships at Northwest Nazarene in February and narrowly missed out on an indoor shot put title.
But it’s making the outdoor season a bit tougher.
“It’s been a struggle to get the technique down,” said Washington, who holds school records in the shot put, discus, hammer, indoor shot put and indoor weight throw.
“It’s a challenge.”
There’s another challenge that drives him – qualifying for nationals again. With five meets to go before the GNAC championships, Washington ranks second in the discus (155-9) and hammer (163-0) and fourth in the shot put (50-103/4) going into Saturday’s Willamette Invitational in Salem, Ore.
“There’s a few things here and there with each event that I feel can propel me to the next level to make it to where I want to be,” he said.
Washington will graduate in May with a degree in sociology; the graduation date of May 11 is the second day of the GNAC championships at Western Oregon. He said he will miss that day in order to walk with his classmates.
He plans to shift his track career from athlete to coach soon, with tentative plans to stay at Saint Martin’s, where he first arrived on campus in 2007.
“From the time I was gone,” Washington said, “a lot has changed program-wise and campus life. The environment has improved to a level that made me more comfortable being here.”Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com theolympian.com/southsoundsports @MegWochnick