At 11pm last Thursday night, BJ Shaw starred at the triple jump pit in a daze. After 7 hours of competition, the stadium was nearly empty. The few that stuck around until the end were anxiously waiting for his jump so they could finally go home. BJ wasn’t thinking about home just yet. He really wasn’t thinking much of anything. All that he had on his mind was three inches. Three inches was the lead that Walter Johnson’s Ian Francis had over him going into the final jump of the meet. Most competitors would have been happy to walk away with 2nd place and a personal record of 45 feet 6 inches, but all he needed was three more inches for the county title. There was nothing more to think about. He leaned back, sprinted down the runway, and landed a beauty. The white flag was raised to signify a clean jump and the jump was measured to be 46 feet and 3.5 inches. He needed 3 inches. He took more than 9. His coaches and teammates can only wonder if this first year track athlete has any limits at all.
BJ remembers running track in middle school, where he once outran all of his classmates to complete a mile in five minutes. Distance running interested him initially, but the interest faded as he and his friend Jeremy Marshall pushed each other over fifteen feet in the long jump. Jeremy signed up to run track for Gaithersburg High School in his freshman year and quickly became one of the best athletes in the county. BJ decided to focus on basketball in high school and made the varsity squad by his sophomore year. He credits his basketball experience for improving his jumping skills. While his basketball career was hampered by injuries, he was still recognized as the top shot blocker on the team. It was only when his final basketball season was over that the senior decided track and field would be a good way to fill his free time.
BJ initially hoped that he could be a champion high jumper, but after watching him in the long and triple jumps, his coaches knew that he could be much more. In his first long jump in many years, BJ sailed nearly 20 feet. In his first triple jump ever, he was measured over 40 feet. He flew under the radar as he progressed steadily in dual meets and relay invitationals. He liked it that way. He enjoyed competing with no pressure on his shoulders and no reporters in his face. That all began to change at the Urbana Invitational.
On a day where BJ felt sick, he shocked his fellow competitors by winning the long jump in 22 feet, winning the triple jump in 45 feet 4 inches, and placing 2nd in the high jump in 6 feet 2 inches. That is when people began asking, “Who is BJ Shaw?” That is when people began thinking, “Gaithersburg is going to be tough to beat.”
Since that day at Urbana, BJ has remained the county leader in the long jump and triple jump. Well-known Maryland athletes approach him at meets to get to know him. He has become fascinated with the sport, looking up his competitors’ statistics and internet videos of the greats like triple jump world record holder Jonathan Edwards. He initially decided to attend Frostburg State University, but is now working with his high school coaches to get an athletic scholarship to compete in track & field at a Division I school.
Today, watch for BJ to continue breaking down personal barriers in all three jumps. He will also be trying the 100-meter dash, because according to coaches, “He’s the fastest kid on the team.” He hopes to qualify for the state championship so he can help his team as much as possible at the state meet. By the end of the year, BJ’s short, yet remarkable high school career will come to an end, but he will move on to bigger and better things as a track fan for life, knowing that his decision to run track & field was one of the best decisions he ever made.