Sports

The Natural

Angellica Street picked up a javelin and almost overnight became one of the top throwers in the state; now she’s the top-ranked junior in America and still only scratching the surface of her potential

Mike Lyngstad has seen almost everything during a 53-year high school coaching career, one that started not long after he won his third consecutive Big Sky Conference javelin title at the University of Montana in 1969. He’s seen innumerable impressive athletes, coached countless future collegians and watched class after class of teenagers stand atop the podium at the end of the season. But the Columbia Falls High School javelin coach does not hesitate for even a moment when asked where his latest pupil ranks.

“She’s by far the best I’ve ever had,” he says. “By far.”

She is Angellica Street, a laidback, popular and soft-spoken junior at Columbia Falls High School who threw the modern javelin farther than any girl in Montana ever has less than two weeks ago, breaking a 12-year-old record barely two years after she picked up the 7-foot spear for the very first time. It’s just the latest high point in a remarkable career that has been eye-opening from the very beginning.

“The first time she touched it she was two feet off of qualifying for state,” Lyngstad recalled at a Wildkats practice last week. “She had never done it before; just ran up and threw it (113 feet).”

Street’s uncanny natural ability has flashed time and again in her two-plus years as part of the track and field program, and as she continues her assault on history the most impressive part is just how much better she keeps getting. Street topped out at 128 feet, 9 inches as a freshman, adding 15 feet from where she started the year, and reached 147-7 at last year’s state meet to set a new Class A record. She decided to try weightlifting for the first time this year, as a junior, and came out of the gates with a personal best 149-4 in her first meet of the season. Then came 150 feet for the first time in late April and finally 158-8 on May 9, setting a new all-class state record. She is the fourth-ranked javelin thrower in the nation, according to Athletic.net, and the only one of the top seven who is not a high school senior.

Her modest goal is to get beyond 160 feet at the Class A state meet in Laurel, May 24, and if she adds another 15 feet next year — something her coaches believe is well within reach and which would be on course with her average annual improvement to this point — she will not only put an 18-wheeler between herself and every other Montanan, she would also be on track for an invitation to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Nothing, it seems, is too lofty of a target for Street, who despite the acclaim that has come with her history-making toss and a stockpile of first-place medals is, in Lyngstad’s words, “embarrassed” to talk about her success.

“(The javelin) just came naturally, I guess,” Street says. “I didn’t think I was going to be good at an actual throwing event. It was weird.”

Street is a gifted athlete who is an all-conference libero for the Wildkats volleyball team, but she says she’s “definitely not built to be sprinting or jumping,” so she gravitated to the shot put in eighth grade when she first came out for track and field. Since she arrived at high school and first tried the javelin, she has been in love with the event and learning under the watchful eye of Lyngstad, who says Street’s easygoing personality and quiet confidence make her a model for his 15 other throwers.

“She’s the kind of girl who never, ever says anything bad about anybody and she never talks about herself,” Lyngstad says. “(Her teammates) respect her because of how she reacts to everything. She’s not pompous. She just accepts it and she wants to get better.”

For all of her steadiness, however, Street says she still gets nervous before meets, especially big ones like the upcoming state meet. She “choked,” in her words, at her first state meet as a freshman and finished third in the javelin, but was calm enough last year to best the field by more than 20 feet. Lyngstad adds that while Street may be the picture of calm on the outside, she has an internal desire that overwhelms any nerves.

“She doesn’t show it as much, she’s low key, but she’s got a fire inside her, let me tell you,” he said.

Lyngstad and Street are continuing to perfect the somewhat unorthodox motion of throwing the javelin, and improving the speed and steps she uses to reach her launch point. Street will attend a camp in Texas this summer along with some of the other top throwers in the country in what should be a motivating experience, and with another year of training and another year in the weight room before next season, the Olympic dream sounds a little less outrageous than it might seem.

“She has a shot at it,” Lyngstad says. “She really does.”

The javelin competition at the Class A state meet in Laurel is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, May 24.

andy@flatheadbeacon.com

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