by Scott Kindberg
June 27, 2003
Battle Gives It His Best ‘Shot’
CARSON, Calif. – David Reinhardt, the program director for the Chautauqua Striders, couldn’t contain his excitement.
One couldn’t blame him.
Sheldon Battle, the Jamestown kid who grew up with the Striders and who worked a little bit in their development program just last summer, is now among the elite shot putters in the nation, if not the world, by virtue of his performance Sunday in the USA Track & Field Championships.
Competing against a former world champion and two former Olympic medalists, Battle, who just completed his junior year at the University of Kansas, turned in a throw of 68 feet, 8 1/2 inches to place fourth. That effort, which set a new Kansas record, earns him alternate status for the World Championships in Helsinki later this summer.
Christian Cantwell, who had the best throw in the world last year, won the event with a throw of 71 feet; two-time Olympic silver medalist Adam Nelson was second at 70 ¼; and three-time world champion John Godina was third at 68-10 ½, just two inches ahead of Battle.
“To be two inches off what (Godina) did? Oh, my goodness,” Reinhardt said.
Battle’s performance caps an incredible outdoor season during which he earned All-American status in the shot (66-7 ¼) at the NCAAs with a second place finish; and placed his name in the Kansas record book in two other events – the hammer throw (210-0) and the discus (188-10) where he is ranked second and fifth, respectively.
“He’s the future of throwing in the United States,” Reinhardt said. “This is a whole new plateau. I can’t even imagine. I can’t imagine what he’s going through.”
Battle, who just turned 22 three days ago, is a relative baby among his peers. Cantwell is 24, Nelson is almost 30 and Godina is 33.
“I know I have the potential,” Battle said when reached on his cell phone late Sunday. “I think everybody around me knows I have the potential, but I’m not going to think about it until it happens. I’m going to work towards my potential and hope one day I can reach it.”
But Reinhardt isn’t bashful about talking about the former Strider.
“Sheldon’s right there,” Reinhardt said. “He’s at the right place at the right time.”
Interestingly enough, Reinhardt said that Battle’s effort Sunday, which was two feet better than in Sacramento just two weeks ago, could vault him into the top 15 shot putters in the world.
Not bad for a kid who graduated from Jamestown High School four years ago.
“He’s been right on,” Reinhardt said. “His day will come, his day will definitely come. This is an exciting time for him.”
It is also an exciting time for the Striders, who have turned out some outstanding athletes, including Jamestown native Karen Bakewell and Sherman native Nolan Swanson, during their 26-year existence.
“Karen won an NCAA title (800 meters in 1986) and you can’t take that away from her, and Nolan made a national (cross country) team,” Reinhardt said. “Sheldon’s right there, … He’s got so much potential. No one from this area has ever finished this high (in the USATF Championships).”
When Sunday’s competition was over, Battle received congratulations from Cantwell, Nelson and Godina.
“They all just shook my hand and patted me on the back,” Battle said. “Godina said that I was big time.”
Asked if he signed any autographs after the competition, Battle laughed.
“I’m just a college kid,” he said.
In order to maintain the momentum of a tremendous spring, Battle plans to stay in Lawrence, Kan. this summer and train for what figures to be a monster senior year.
“This summer will be my first summer ever working out,” he said. “I’m staying here. Hopefully, I’ll have a big upside once I get done.”