Sisters Johntavia Shaw, 10, left, and Johnnay Shaw, 8, excel in track and field, with Johntavia earning a world record and Johnnay being the shot-put champion for her age group.
Johntavia Shaw may only be 10 years old, but she already has a world record under her belt, ranks first in the country in her age group for discus, second for javelin, and third for shot-put. Her 8-year-old sister, Johnnay, is ranked second in her age group for shot-put, and sixth for javelin.
The Clearwater sisters recently competed in the AAU Junior Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa, July 25 through Aug. 2 for track and field. This closed out the season, locking in the girls’ impressive standings. At the event itself, Johntavia placed second in discus, second in javelin, and 13th in shot-put. Johnnay placed second in shot-put and seventh in javelin. A wall in their living room is heavy with all the medals they have won over the years.
For Johntavia, her highlight moment of the year – and her athletic career – came at the USATF Florida Association Championships in Jacksonville on June 21 when she set the world record in discus for her age group, which is for 10 year olds. She threw 87 feet, 9 inches, beating the previous record by a girl in Finland, who had thrown 85 feet, 2 inches.
“I thought, ‘Oh my god,’” Johntavia said.
She never thought that she would set a world record – certainly not at her age, at least. The girls’ mom, Cathie Shaw, said one of the exciting things about seeing Johntavia’s name on the International Age Records website, age-records.125mb.com, is to see her name next to world famous athletes’ names.
“It’s cool because when you go onto the website … you have Usain Bolt, Allyson Felix, Marion Jones, and then there’s Johntavia Shaw,” Cathie said. “It’s just like, wow. Because they all did this before they turned professional, so you have the best of the best on that page.”
Next, Johntavia has her eye on the 11-year-old discus record, set by Amber Curtis of the USA in 1996.
“I want everybody to know my name and stuff,” Johntavia said. “And to keep on breaking records and get better.”
Johntavia, now a fifth-grader at McMullen-Booth Elementary, began participating in track and field at age 5. Johnnay, now a third-grader at McMullen-Booth, began track and field at age 4. Both compete “unattached,” meaning they are not a part of a specific team. Their mom coaches them.
Cathie ran for Dunedin Middle and Dunedin High, played soccer for Dunedin and graduated from Tarpon Springs High, where she also played. Her oldest daughter, Latecia Hardy, was the first of her girls to inherit her athletic disposition, and received a full athletic scholarship to Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas.
“By my oldest daughter participating, they also wanted to join and try it,” Cathie said of Johntavia and Johnnay. “Johntavia’s first year, she excelled at the shot-put and was No. 1 as a Pee-Wee. That was the division she was in. She just enjoyed it and wanted to continue on each year. And then the little sister, of course, wanted to participate as well and has done quite well.”
The girls compete in both the AAU and USATF divisions, and this year they each did so well that they both qualified for both divisions’ Junior Olympics competitions. However, by competing unattached, they pay for all of their expenses, including travel, so they opted to only attend the AAU Junior Olympics event.
The indoor track and field season begins in January, and the outdoor season begins in March, and the season concludes in July. The girls may be young, but they already train hard and take their training seriously.
“We practice four days a week,” Cathie said. “No particular days on what event we do, but we’ll target shot-put one day a week, (Johntavia) typically focuses on discus one day a week, and then Johnnay usually works on javelin twice a week. We actually throw shot-put in our backyard. We go over to the Long Center and that’s where they throw javelin and discus. They’re not on any kind of weight regimen yet because they’re just too young.”
Johnnay, the more gregarious sister, gleefully explained why she loves competing in track and field.
“Because you get medals, and sometimes you get a patch, and I want to break some records so everyone wants to be around you and ask you ‘How do you break a record?’ and ask you questions,” Johnnay said.
Johnnay’s favorite event is javelin.
“I like it because when you throw, it goes straight and you can watch it in the air and because when it goes straight up like a plane and then it comes down and you hit the tip,” Johnnay said.
When she gets tired, Johnnay sometimes complains that the shot-put is “so heavy,” but she likes watching the “big girls” throw it, spinning around and around before they throw it. Despite that, this year Johnnay earned the 2014 Youth Zonal Indoor Track and Field Championship national title for Shot-Put 8 and Under Girls Division.
“(It made me feel) excited,” Johnnay said. “Super amazing. I feel like I’m famous.”
Johnnay said she hopes to continue to compete in college and would love to make it all the way to the Olympics one day. But for now, she wants to continue to practice every day to get better and better.
For Johntavia, although she is good at other sports as well, she prefers track and field because of all the different events she can compete in. She particularly loves discus.
“I was just natural at it,” Johntavia said. “I really like it. (You need) the drive to know you can do this. And upper body strength.”
When asked if there is anything she doesn’t like about it, she didn’t even have to think about her response.
“Uh, losing,” she said. “(When it happens) I just have to suck it up because not everyone can win all the time.”
One of the tricky things about competing in these sports is that sometimes the girls have all three events back-to-back and have to rush to the other end of the field to compete in the next event.
Johntavia also wants to compete in college and go on to become professional. Their dreams about becoming famous are also beginning to come true.
“It’s been great because they’re so well-known,” Cathie said. “We can’t get through the parking lot (at events) without getting stopped, in that the fame is coming. They’re getting a taste for it for the first time this year because they’re both recognized and Johntavia won a world record. It’s out there. The whispers are going. It’s fun.”