Central’s Kodie Willis competes at Junior Olympics
CLIFTON — If one had asked Central senior Kodie Willis on Memorial Day if he’d be a junior Olympian javelin thrower by the end of the summer, his response would be swift.
“Yeah, right,” Willis said.
A shot put and discus thrower at Central, Willis qualified for the IHSA State Finals in May in the shot put. But he had never thrown a javelin before he joined the Kankakee Track Club this summer, as javelin is not a track and field event at Central.
“I’ve always wanted to do the track club at Kankakee and I knew that offseason track (and field) had javelin,” Willis said. “Javelin always stuck out to me, because I’m not the biggest person in the world when it comes to throwing.
“I’ve been throwing for about a month and a half, two months now, and it just clicked when I first started throwing it.”
It only took Willis four meets before he won the USA Track and Field Region Seven Junior Olympic Championships in Muncie, Indiana on July 8 with a personal record throw of 152-feet-1.25.
His win at regionals qualified him for the USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Championships at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro last weekend.
“I was pretty pumped. I don’t even know how to explain it,” Willis said of his record throw. “It happened so quickly and I was so happy. It was definitely a lifetime achievement.”
Willis and his family — parents Jami and Keith, and brothers Blake and Tyler, both Central graduates, took the drive to Greensboro together. When they got there, Willis said he was in his rhythm, although he ended up coming up short during the event.
Willis finished 38th with a throw of 127-10.25.
“I was feeling really good about it, I was feeling good in warmups, but my first throw just was not good,” Willis said. “I just wasn’t clicking after that.
“I’m not upset with how I did. I still threw really far for only throwing for two months, but it was definitely not what I wanted to finish.”
Beginning next week, Willis shifts his attention to the gridiron, where he’ll play tight end and linebacker for the Comets. According to football coach Brian Spooner, Willis is expected to shine on both sides.
“I have known Kodie since he and his family first moved here when he was in fifth or sixth grade and it has been really cool watching him grow up and mature the way that he has,” Spooner said. “Kodie has come a long way in his four years with football. He has gotten bigger, stronger and faster which is going to help him in football this year.
“We are expecting him to have a great year on both sides of the ball as we utilize him at tight end and inside linebacker. He’s has size and athleticism, which will be an asset for him on the field.”
After a fall of football and winter of wrestling, Willis will return to throwing in the spring. And after taking home hardware as a junior Olympian, he has one goal for his senior year in the shot put and discus events.
“Finish on the podium.”