HS track and field: The sky is the limit for Ridgefield’s Trey Knight

Despite being firmly in the national spotlight, he remains a humble  Spudder

RIDGEFIELD — When he was a little guy, Trey Knight would throw things around in his backyard.

Pretty much whatever his grandfather would give him, Knight would take it in his little hands and throw it away from him, as far as he could.

Little pieces of iron. Even small chains. If Trey Knight could hold it, he could throw it.

He never got in trouble for this behavior. In fact, he was encouraged.

Trey Knight, a sophomore at Ridgefield High School, is one of the best in the nation for his age group in the throwing events. He hopes to win shot put and discus state championships this spring and defend his state hammer throw title that he won as a freshman. Photo by Mike Schultz
Trey Knight, a sophomore at Ridgefield High School, is one of the best in the nation for his age group in the throwing events. He hopes to win shot put and discus state championships this spring and defend his state hammer throw title that he won as a freshman. Photo by Mike Schultz

These days, Trey Knight still throws things, only not in his backyard. A sophomore at Ridgefield High School, Knight is going far, competing at some of the most prestigious destinations in track and field. This winter, for example, he was in New York for the New Balance National Indoor. Last summer, he won three events at the Region 13 Junior Olympic Championships.

He holds national age-group records. He has a following In the track and field world. Search his name on the internet, and there are stories about him on national sites, predicting a huge future.

Still, back home, he is simply a Ridgefield Spudder, competing for his high school team, trying to enjoy every minute he has with his teammates.

“Family keeps me really humble, and all my friends here are good too,” Knight said.

Trey Knight of Ridgefield has been throwing things pretty much his whole life, being introduced to the sport by his grandfather. Photo by Mike Schultz
Trey Knight of Ridgefield has been throwing things pretty much his whole life, being introduced to the sport by his grandfather. Photo by Mike Schultz

As far as his travels, his records, his, for lack of a better word, fame … “They could care less,” Knight said with a laugh.

OK, that is not entirely true. They care. They want him to do well. They just will not allow Knight to let the attention change him.

“They’re really supportive, but they don’t give me special treatment,” Knight said. “They kind of mock me.”

Knight just humbly goes about his business, training throughout the year. Because his grandfather, John Gambill, is a volunteer coach for the high school team, Trey’s mother Heather is his coach in shot put and discus outside of the school season.  

This is a family sport.

“He got us working on stuff, and I just stuck with it,” Trey said of his early days in the backyard with grandpa.

The sky is the limit for Trey Knight’s athletic abilities. A sophomore from Ridgefield, he hopes to one day represent America in the Olympics in the hammer throw, but he also excels in the discus (shown here) and shot put. Photo by Mike Schultz
The sky is the limit for Trey Knight’s athletic abilities. A sophomore from Ridgefield, he hopes to one day represent America in the Olympics in the hammer throw, but he also excels in the discus (shown here) and shot put. Photo by Mike Schultz

Trey realized at a young age that the more interested he was in throwing, the more time he got with his “best friend.”

“Spending time with him means a lot to me,” Trey said. “Even though we butt heads from time-to-time, I’d rather be with him than anyone else.”

Trey noted that as grandfather/grandson, they are perfect. As coach/athlete, well the stress can get to both of them every so often.

“He really gets on me. He’s a hard coach,” Trey said. “And sometimes I can be a smart aleck to him.”

Earlier this season, Trey Knight of Ridgefield set a personal best for outdoor shot put at 63-feet, 3-inches. In the winter, he competed in New York at the prestigious New Balance National Indoor. Photo by Mike Schultz
Earlier this season, Trey Knight of Ridgefield set a personal best for outdoor shot put at 63-feet, 3-inches. In the winter, he competed in New York at the prestigious New Balance National Indoor. Photo by Mike Schultz

Still, Trey understands the long-term plan. The most talented athletes do not become the best on talent alone. There must be someone there to keep pushing the athlete.

John Gambill certainly knows how to do that. A few years back, Gambill coached another grandson — Jon Lawson of Prairie — to three state championships in the hammer throw.

Trey Knight has an eye on his cousin’s titles. Trey won the state title in the hammer last spring and wants to top Lawson by becoming a four-time high school champion.

It should be noted that the hammer throw is not a sanctioned event by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA). Those who compete in hammer compete the day after the official high school state meet.

Trey Knight said he was disappointed with his second-place finishes at state last season in the discus and shot put. That was motivation enough for him to train even harder, with the goal of winning two WIAA state titles later this spring. Photo by Mike Schultz
Trey Knight said he was disappointed with his second-place finishes at state last season in the discus and shot put. That was motivation enough for him to train even harder, with the goal of winning two WIAA state titles later this spring. Photo by Mike Schultz

Last year, Trey won the hammer title, helping him get over a couple of disappointing finishes at the WIAA championships. He finished second in the Class 2A shot put and discus.

“I got really emotional, and I’m not very emotional about that stuff,” Knight said. “I started tearing up. That sticks with me. It’s definitely a big motivator. Not going to let that happen again.”

He conceded that a second-place finish at state, especially for a freshman, is a solid performance. It just was not his best.

The next day, though, he did set a personal best in the 12-pound hammer throw, winning state at 202-feet, 4 inches.

This high school season, he has already set new personal bests in shot put (63-3) and discus (177-7).

He has another goal that has nothing to do with throwing. Some time this season, he wants to run with the Spudders on the 4×100-relay team.

Oh yes, that is another thing about Knight. He is strong and fit, standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing 215 pounds. But that is not necessarily the size of an elite thrower.

Ridgefield track and field coach Gregg Ford said Knight can do a back-flip and dunk a basketball. Just a superior athlete.

Trey Knight is known for his throwing abilities, but don’t be shocked if you see him sprinting for the Ridgefield Spudders this spring. Besides his excellence in shot put and discuss, he also might run on a relay team. Photo by Mike Schultz
Trey Knight is known for his throwing abilities, but don’t be shocked if you see him sprinting for the Ridgefield Spudders this spring. Besides his excellence in shot put and discuss, he also might run on a relay team. Photo by Mike Schultz

“He’s like a little puppy. He’s going to get bigger, and he’s going to get stronger,” Ford said. “It’s just weird to see it. Last year at state, he’s up at the podium, and he’s the smallest guy there.

“All these people were looking to see who’s this Trey Knight kid. The look on people’s faces. They expected to see this gigantic kid. ‘Him? Really?’”

This not-so-giant giant of the sport, who is a month away from his 16th birthday, was discouraged from playing football for Ridgefield earlier this fall. He is, after all, a once-in-a-generation talent in track and field and the injury risk was just too high. So he made a deal. If he did not play football, then he could train to be on the relay team.

He still has to prove he belongs, but yes, it is possible one of the best throwers in the nation will be sprinting with the Spudders this spring.

It is important that Knight is just another member of the team. He knows, after all, he gets more attention than any of the other Spudders.

“He’s got a following. You go to a meet and there’s people watching the shot put. I mean a lot of people,” Ford said. “Kids talk to him. They want to be around him, see him, and know him. That’s a lot to handle. He’s being interviewed nationally. But he’s pretty grounded. He’s got a good support system around him.”

Family, friends, and Ridgefield all play a part in that, Knight said.

His grandfather still coaches him in hammer. His mom, also a former college athlete, coaches him in shot put and discus. He has his dad, Beau, that he wants to make proud. And he wants to be a strong role model to his younger brother Carson, a basketball player.

The ultimate dream for Knight is to represent America, Ridgefield, and his family at the Olympics in the hammer throw, his favorite event.

He does have a knack for making his dreams a reality.

“I dreamed about it but I didn’t actually think I ever would,” he said of traveling to places such as New York just to throw things. “To actually do that is unreal.”

Oh, and one more very important key to Knight’s present and future. He absolutely loves what he does, the training and the competition.

“It’s everything. I don’t know anything else,” Knight said. “When I’m not training, I feel clueless.”

What makes for a perfect performance for Ridgefield’s Trey Knight? He explains how he does it for the shot put, the discus, and the hammer throw:

Shot put:
“Grandpa always says you have to throw hard but relaxed. It’s kind of contradictory. You have to make sure you get your hips into it, especially for me, because I’m not as big. A good solid punch at the end, too.”

Discus:
“Hips and legs. You just can’t muscle the disc. If you muscle the disc at all, it’s just going to go nowhere. You have to whip it.”

Hammer throw:
“Keep your steps tight. Good good speed progress into it. Let the hammer, at the end, sling out of your hands. You feel it. If you hit a good one, it just pops right out. That’s when you know you’ve thrown a good one. And don’t panic, too. You get going super fast. It gets kind of scary.”

 

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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