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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.”