Nik Kay didn't expect to bring home the gold at last year's state track and field championships. After bursting onto the scene in just his second year throwing the discus, Kay was ecstatic about his second-place finish.
Just forget about Kay bringing that same ``happy to be here'' attitude to this year's state championships, which begin today with qualifying rounds at Cerritos College in Norwalk. The Los Gatos senior, the favorite in both the discus and the shot put, is brimming with confidence and has the marks to back it up.
This time, Kay is challenging to become a state champion.
``I'd say we have a whole different agenda,'' said Ron McKee, the Los Gatos throws coach. ``We're going there to show what we've got. This meet is to win. We're going after titles right now.''
At 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, Kay is surprisingly soft-spoken about his goals for the state finals. He owns the state's No. 1 mark in the discus (his throw of 204 feet, 10 inches is also second best in the nation this season) and the No. 2 mark in the shot put with a throw of 62-11. He recorded both at the Central Coast Section finals last weekend.
``I'm not expecting anything, but I'm hoping to do my best,'' said Kay, who will attend West Valley College in the fall and hopes to become eligible for a Division I program. ``If I do my best, things will work out. I want to PR in both of them. That would be a really cool way to end the season.''
If he comes anywhere near duplicating last weekend's performance, Kay will end his high school career on a mountain-peak high. He set two personal records at the CCS finals, breaking a 15-year-old meet record in the discus and serving notice that he is a legitimate threat in the shot put. His result in the shot put was somewhat of a surprise considering Kay says he never really enjoyed the event as a junior and only recently began taking it seriously.
Now he is poised to medal in both.
``I saw something special coming out of him in training sessions, the hunger and desire to throw both events,'' McKee said about Kay's late-season practices. ``It's built up to this point where he's able to take on the full responsibility of both events.''
Kay didn't find his rhythm in the shot put until the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League finals four weeks ago. After spending most of the season just going through the motions, something clicked. He threw a 56-5 to win the league title, then a personal best.
``I had a recent attitude adjustment, and now I'm trying a lot harder and realizing what it's all about,'' Kay said.
Last year, Kay was leading in the discus at the state meet until La Quinta's Jarered Morgan landed a throw of 194-1 on his final attempt to win the event. Kay didn't qualify in the shot put last year, but he figures the experience should help him during the two-day competition. Kay will attempt to qualify today for Saturday's finals.
``My junior year I wasn't expecting anything big, but big things started happening,'' Kay said. ``This year I just want to do better.''