RIDGEFIELD — Many times, one of the best places to practice sports can be in the family backyard.
That’s true for Trey Knight, one of the nation’s elite prep track and field athletes bound for the University of Southern California.
The backyard of his family’s Ridgefield home sits on five acres, and is a place of solitude, serenity and, of course, training for an athlete who set the national high school hammer throw mark last month to cap an illustrious prep career.
And, yes, five acres — and a 10-by-16 concrete slab to practice up to four throwing events — is plenty of space for Knight to unleash throws without disturbing neighbors.
“It’s definitely better than sitting in my room,” said Knight, 18, who graduated from Ridgefield High last month. “It’s something I’ve been doing for so long … I notice it when I take time off, it feels like something is missing.”
Most track and field gurus in Washington know Knight as a four-time Class 2A state champion in the shot put and discus who also owns the 2A discus state meet record. He would’ve gone for a three-peat in each event had COVID-19 concerns not prematurely ended the high school spring sports season.
But on a national stage, Knight is something more. The teen’s speciality is the hammer throw, an event that combines speed, technique, and discipline. A 12-pound iron ball (16 pounds for college men and beyond) that sits on the end of a wire makes for a unique event Knight can’t get enough of. It’s an event he’ll solely focus on when his college track and field career begins.
“It’s different from the other two (shot put and discus),” Knight said. “It feels so fast, but at the same time, it’s slow. If you do it right, it feels effortless.
“It’s a different feeling when you do it right.”
Knight heads to USC next week to begin his freshman year of college on the heels of a momentous national mark he’s targeted for years on top of momentous future goals.
At Ridgefield, Knight exclusively was a track and field athlete until last fall when he turned out for football. As an all-league defensive end, he helped Ridgefield earn its first state playoff bid since 2005.
But his family’s track and field riches go back years. His mother, Heather, and aunt, Joanna, won multiple state titles for Battle Ground in the 1990s. Later, cousin Jon Lawson was a three-time state-title winner for Prairie.
Knight carved his own path in the shot put and discus, but trains for the hammer in virtual anonymity. Only one state — Rhode Island — recognizes the hammer throw as a sanctioned high school event. States like Washington and Oregon do have unofficial high school hammer state championships. Knight owns three of those state titles, too, and a national record.
Knight set the all-time high school hammer throw mark the final weekend in June at a local meet in Portland. His top throw of 261 feet, 7 inches surpassed the 2013 national mark set by Rudy Winkler, who represented the United States at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and placed 11th in the men’s hammer at last year’s World Championships.
Winkler’s high school record is what Knight wanted.
“You train for it for so long,” Knight said, “and work so hard for it. To finally be able to do it …
I put a lot of pressure on myself to break it over the four years.”
Winkler isn’t the only high-profile hammer thrower Knight is connected to.
At USC, Knight’s training partner will be Conor McCullough, a USC alum who competed at the 2016 Olympic Trials and at last year’s World Championships. It’s a name Knight surpassed climbing up the all-time high school hammer throw list. Knight owns the freshman and senior class records. McCullough has the other two.
That mentorship is what Knight looks forward to.
“Ten years ago, he was exactly where I am today,” he said. “He was the guy everyone wanted. To know what he’s gone through and learn what his mistakes were and things that went well for him … He’s the guy I’ve been chasing these last four years, and that was really big for me.”
And that’s one of the reasons why Knight said USC is a perfect blend of the college experience he wants, and a program he feels can get him to where he wants to be.
For starters, that’s the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. It’s all part of Knight’s long-range plan — a plan he’s dreamt while unleashing throws in his backyard.
“It’s pretty exciting to see how everything goes,” Knight said, “and all the possibilities.
“After a while, I can make (USC) like home.”