Above: Katie Sayles throws the shot put during a meet in 2019.
Photos by Paul Snyder/The Exponent
By Jeff Steers
Exponent special writer
Napoleon High School senior Katie Sayles has already moved on to introducing herself to her future teammates at Hillsdale College.
But she still has some unfinished business with her NHS classmates, teachers and school district employees.
Sayles is one of the many senior student-athletes who had their season and career cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. The virus has shut down all of the United States and forced a lot of changes at different levels.
But the Napoleon soon-to-be graduate has moved on emotionally, already able to communicate with her Hillsdale College teammates. She signed to throw the shot put and hammer throw at Hillsdale College prior to the pandemic.
“It was pretty crushing when they announced that school and sports were canceled for the remainder of the year,” Sayles said Friday afternoon. “NCAA rules allow me to do Zoom calls with my Hillsdale College teammates once a week.
“Right now, we are all reading books on self-esteem and mental strength.”
Sayles seems to know a little bit about those two subjects. She has been throwing the shot put and discus for more than six years and has been a state qualifier in the shot put the last two seasons. As a sophomore she missed placing in the top eight by less than an inch. Last year she finished ninth again with a throw – 36 feet, 3.25 inches. That distance would have netted her seventh place in 2018 and an all-state medal.
Napoleon High School graduate Katie Sayles, left, talks with bowling Coach Brian Beaman during a match earlier in the year.
Her motivation – besides being so close the last two seasons – was to set the school record.
“I threw the shot put 39 feet, 4.5 inches during an indoor meet this spring,” Sayles said. “That is only a quarter inch away from Napoleon’s school record.
“I have dreamed of beating the school record and have worked hard.
“But that is behind me right now, it is off to college.”
What is not behind her is the empty feeling of not seeing her friends and teachers from Napoleon. Sayles said when school was postponed due to the coronavirus in March, everyone expected to be back relatively soon.
“I really miss my friends and teachers,” Sayles said. “We never had a chance to say goodbye to our teachers and people in the buildings.
“It is really hard … but not the end of the world.”
Napoleon administrators have promised a graduation ceremony once the pandemic is lifted. Lessons learned along the way will help the NHS senior.
“Sports has taught me the value of perseverance and being mentally tough,” Sayles said. “You can’t win without both, and a little hard work.
“That is escalated when it comes to sports. Competing in sports has made me a better person.”
The competitor said she took advantage of a pre-school weight training program provided by teachers Derek Shell and Mike Blanchard. Sayles said she felt herself getting stronger heading into the spring season.
Since the school is closed, she has not been able to work out in the high school weight room.
“I am using a broomstick and two five-gallon buckets (filled with liquid) for workouts,” Sayles said with a laugh. “You have to do the best you can with what you have now.”
Sayles will graduate from NHS with a gpa of 3.9 – on a 4.0 scale.
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The joy of the Lord is your strength. Neh. 8:10