Boys Track: Maine East’s Shields hoping to make state cutMaine East's James Shields extends his leap in the long jump during the Demon's indoor invitational.
After the 2011 track season came to a disappointing conclusion for Maine East’s James Shields, he saw his senior campaign come dangerously close to a premature ending as well.
Shields hurt his ankle playing basketball in gym class last month, but the senior was thankful that it wasn’t broken. Shields missed three weeks of track, however. Despite the effect of the injury, Shields kept focused on his primary goal: becoming a state champion.
He got off to a good start last week, capturing the CSL North championship in long jump and triple jump.
“When I got hurt, as soon as I found out it wasn’t broken or anything, I rested and stayed hungry,” Shields said. “I knew I could come back in time. I still had the same goals I had at the beginning of the season. Nothing really changed for me when I found out I’d be fine.”
While the injury didn’t end his career, it did hamper some of the progress Shields made during the indoor season. He finished second at the Illinois Prep Top Times meet in the triple jump, leaping 45-feet-4 3/4.
At the CSL North meet on Friday, he cleared 44-9 1/2, yet expects to perform better when the pressure mounts.
“My triple jump these past few weeks probably has me in the top 20 (in the state),” Shields said. “It’s not where I want to be because I placed second at the Prep Top Times Indoor meet. Coming into the outdoor season, I struggled and got hurt. But I always come through toward the end, so I know it’ll get better at some point.”
As today’s (Thursday’s) Loyola Sectional approached, Shields was hoping to continue improving his triple jump, long jump (21-6 3/4 at the CSL North meet) and the 300-meter hurdles.
For a program which regularly finishes in the bottom half of its conference and hasn’t had a state-meet qualifier in at least five years, Shields serves as one of Maine East’s best track athletes in recent memory.
But Shields only has, at the most, two more meets remaining in his high school career before moving on to Oakton College next season. As one of the Blue Demons’ four seniors, Shields has tried to pass on lessons to the team’s myriad younger athletes.
“The big thing I’ve been trying to do is pass on leadership to the juniors; teach them how to lead the team so when we’re gone, they can take over, and they’ll know what they’re doing next year,” Shields said. “I hope I’m rubbing off on some of them so that next year we’ve got some good leaders around.”