HELENA — Early on during last year’s 2017 track and field season, Capital High junior weight man Justin Jenks became the eighth member of the school's “50-150 Club” with throws longer than 50 feet and 150 feet in the shot put and discus.
The powerful 6-3, 235-pounder since raised his accomplishments to a unique level among the annals of Montana’s greatest prep track athletes.
Jenks went undefeated in the shot put, lost but twice in the discus and swept the Western AA and Class AA state titles in both events this year.
And now, Justin Jenks – Capital’s only “60-180” man – is the Independent Record’s Male Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“It’s an honor to be named the IR track athlete of the year,” said Jenks, who lets his actions do most of his talking.
Which is quite alright, because Jenks’ accomplishments speak for themselves. And his coaches don’t mind explaining how, and why, he’s been able to achieve those performances.
“It’s a combination, in order, of technique, speed and strength,” said Capital shot put coach Tom Kain, when asked what makes Jenks so good. “Justin was great at self-correcting, and a student of the event, who was great coaching up his teammates – making them better, as well.”
Jenks concluded his junior year by starting a fraternity of his own, Capital’s “60-160 Club,” while breaking 37-year-old school records, going 60-0 in the shot put and a 166-9 toss in the discus.
Jenks became the first Capital athlete to sweep the Western AA titles in both events, before garnering two all-state medals in each principle at state.
But he was just getting warmed up. This year he performed feats in the shot and disc circles that put his name in the record books alongside Montana’s greatest all-time athletes.
He opened the season where he left off, sweeping the Billings Skyview triangular in his events. His first 60-160 meet this year was the Swede Dahlberg Invitational in late April, when he garnered the shot at 61-3½, and the discus with a 166-2.
Jenks went on to sweep both events at the Skor-DeKam Invite, Big Sky triangular and crosstown meet with Helena.
His lone non-wins in the discus took place at the Butte Invite (although he broke the 170 plateau with a 170-2) and the Western Top-10, both times to eventual State B champion Austin Forson of Deer Lodge.
At divisionals in Missoula, Jenks successfully retained his titles in record-setting fashion, capturing the shot put with a 63-1¾, and a launch of 181-11½ in the discus.
His shot broke Mike Violette’s (Hellgate) 1989 Western AA meet mark of 61-8½, and his platter toss bested Helena’s 1971 all-city standard of 176-10, held by Pat Donovan (Helena) for 47 years.
“Congratulations to Justin Jenks on dusting off that old record,” emailed Donovan, who garnered four Pro Bowl selections during his 9-year career with the Dallas Cowboys. “I would be bitter, but A) he didn’t break it by just an inch (or worse yet something metric); and B) it got my name in the paper.”
The following weekend at the Class AA Meet in Great Falls, Jenks put his name alongside the former NFL offensive tackle again. By capturing the shot put (64-3) and discus (172-3) last weekend, he became the first Capital City male since Donovan to win both titles in the same state meet.
“Justin has worked really hard on learning the discus technique,” Capital discus coach John Joyce said. “When we’d have problems figuring out part of the spin, we’d take videos of him or look up throwing videos on Youtube.”
Jenks’ shot was the farthest in the state since all-class record-holder Dennis Black’s (Great Falls High) 68-footer 27 years ago. And Jenks is just the third Montanan better than 64 feet, along with Black and Shane Collins (Bozeman) in 1987.
“Justin is an A-plus in skill, work ethic, and as a Bruin teammate,” Capital coach Lon Carter said earlier in the season. “As one of our captains, he’s great with the young kids … a quality young man.
“Justin’s going to college at Colorado State-Pueblo for football and track, and he’s just going to keep throwing farther and farther.”