BILLINGS — Jamie Whitedirt sent a jolt through the crowd of 20 or so people watching the girls discus competition at Tuesday’s Billings Senior small school track and field meet.
One person asked, in an astonished tone, how far Whitedirt’s throw had traveled. He soon got an answer: 121 feet, 10 inches. The announcement of the mark created a second, louder chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd.
Whitedirt’s next throw traveled 127-5, but the spectators weren’t awed by it as much as her previous heave. It was as if they had become numb to the Colstrip junior’s excellence.
Whitedirt’s personal discus record was 121-3 going into Tuesday’s meet at Daylis Stadium, which featured Colstrip, Forsyth, Hardin, Plenty Coups, St. Labre and Senior’s JV team. Not only did she shatter her record, she out-threw the next closest competitor by nearly 15 feet and everyone else by more than 30.
That 127-5 mark would have won the girls discus at the most recent Class B state meet, and it would have placed third in Class A and second in Class AA and C.
She also won the girls shot put Tuesday with a personal-best 40-2.5 — nearly five feet better than second place and 12-plus feet beyond the rest of the field. It would have placed first at the 2019 State B and C meets, would’ve been second in State AA and would’ve been third in State A.
“She’s a next-level athlete,” Colstrip throws coach Anthony Howell said Tuesday. “She’s got a lot of dedication, and throwing’s important to her. She’s got a lot of natural ability.”
The 2020 track and field season was canceled because of COVID-19, and few people knew how much progress Whitedirt had made since her freshman season two springs ago. At her season-opening meet Tuesday, she showed that the lost 2020 hardly slowed her down.
“It's really fun to be back finally throwing in front of people,” Whitedirt said after her final discus throw Tuesday. “My freshman year, that was more of a practice run. Now that I know how it's going to be, I feel like I’ll be a lot better this year.”
Tuesday’s discus performance was much different than her previous outing. Whitedirt felt uncomfortable on every throw at the 2019 State B meet, due in part to the relatively large crowd gathered around the sector at Legends Stadium in Kalispell. She scratched on multiple throws and finished 18th with a mark of 94-1, which was more than 27 feet short of her PR and 10 feet less than her previous season low.
“I just got a little scared and nervous,” she said. “I was pretty devastated, but (I had) time to reflect and get better.”
Nerves were also present when Whitedirt competed in the State B shot put, but they didn’t derail her. She finished third in the event with a throw of 38-2.5, about three inches short of first place and less than a foot shy of her PR.
She’s been more focused on shot put than discus in her career, she said, and she believes that allowed her to overcome her anxiety.
COVID robbed Whitedirt of a chance to redeem herself and potentially earn a first-place trophy. For months, she was denied access to throwing pits and weight rooms because of pandemic restrictions. She’s been able to train regularly since the summer, but she’ll never know how strong her marks would have been if she got a sophomore season.
And yet, Whitedirt could still set some records. The State B girls shot put record is 46-2.25, and the discus record is 137-10. With two seasons left, those distances look attainable.
The canceled 2020 season did little, if anything, to hurt Whitedirt’s college prospects. She said several schools, including Montana State, have expressed interest (her brother, Merlin, signed with Dickinson State for football in 2018).
State records and college opportunities aren’t at the forefront of Whitedirt’s mind right now. Simply competing and wowing some crowds is satisfying enough.
“Everyone kind of made a big deal because how far I was throwing as a freshman, and it kind of got to me,” she said. “I just want to have fun this year. I don't want to stress about it too much.”