The Post-Journal

Battle “Lucky Enough” To Win Two National Titles

Sheldon Battle doesn’t like to talk about himself.

It’s not in his nature.

But sometimes even the most reticent of folks can’t figuratively hide from the glow of their white-hot resume.

So when the Jamestown native and Mesa (Ariz.) Community College sophomore was pressed to describe his recent performance at the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I track and field championships in Levelland, Texas last week, so he offered this attempt at self-analysis:

“I’ve been getting lucky up to now,” he said.


Winning the lottery is lucky.

Having the winning 50-50 ticket is lucky.

Capturing the NJCAA Division I titles in the 16-pound shot (59 feet, 11 inches) and 2-kilogram discus (180-3) and one second place finish in the hammer throw (187-4) is anything but lucky. Battle has earned All-American honors in all three events and has vaulted himself into the rarified air that only the best can occupy.

“This is big-time for him right now,” said David Reinhardt, Battle’s coach when he was a member of the Chautauqua Striders Track Club. “He could probably be one of the medal winners in the NCAAs right now.”

Based on his performance in Texas, Battle would be ranked 27th in the NCAA in both the shot and discus, but, keep in mind those throws were not his personal bests. Earlier this spring, he recorded a 61-11 ½ in the shot and an 187-2 in the discus. That would move him even further up the NCAA rankings , if he attended a member school.

But Battle, a 2001 Jamestown High School graduate, won’t have to wait long to officially join the ranks of his NCAA peers. In fact, he signed his national letter of intent in April to attend the University of Kansas on a track and field scholarship. Battle, who will graduate from Mesa with a degree in general studies, had also received phone calls from Georgia and Tennessee, but opted to go to Kansas where the coach, Doug Reynolds, is a Mesa CC graduate.

“Next year I want to win the Big 12, hopefully,” Battle said. “In four years, I want to go to the (Olympic) Trials. In this sport, you peak in your late 20s and early 30s. I have a ways to go. I’ll go to the Big 12 and see what I can do there. I’ll take it one step at a time and see what happens.”

Taking it one step at a time has been Battle’s mantra for years.

While a senior at JHS, Battle won four New York State titles – two in the shot and two in the discus – and earned All-American honors after placing third in the discus (193-3) at the Adidas/Foot Locker Classic, a national meet in Raleigh, N.C. A two-time Post-Journal Athlete of the year. Battle went to the University at Buffalo in the fall of 2001, but he was there only a year.

“I knew as far as Kansas was concerned that was the place he wanted to go out of high school,” said JHS boys track coach Greg Sherlock. “When that didn‘t work out, he wasn’t as interested. I think it kind of distracted him.”

By the fall of 2002, Battle had enrolled at Mesa CC where he competed on the track and field team for Coach Jay Olson. This year Mesa was the fifth ranked team in NJCAA Division I.

“The coach here is great,” Battle said. “He knows his stuff.”

And by the spring of 2003, Battle had earned NJCAA All-American honors in both the shot and discus after finishing second in both events at the nationals.

“By going to Mesa, it gave him a chance to get the coaching that he was seeking at the college level, secure his grades and really find himself,” Sherlock said. “That move was the best possible place for him.”

Still only 20- he won’t turn 21 until June 23 – Battle who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs in the neighborhood of 255 pounds, is still maturing physically and has just come to fully appreciate the future he has in the sport.

“It’s something that (JHS assistant coach) Jim Painter and I both expected,” said Sherlock. “We knew he always had it in him. It was just a matter of getting to the point where he took weight-lifting seriously.

“Just talking to him, you can hear the change in his demeanor. I know when he was in high school it just didn’t matter.”

Reinhardt recalled having to get in Battle’s face during a Junior Olympics national meet in Baton Rouge, La., a few years ago.

“I had to call him over and light a fire under him,” Reinhardt said.

Years later, that fire has turned into an eternal flame for battle, who offered this piece of advice for high-school age kids who are facing many of the same decisions he had three years ago.

“Just keep going,” he said. “There’s always a way to take. Even if it’s the long way, you can make it. I decided to jump on a plane and take it.”

One can only imagine where the ride will take him in years to come.

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