Reed senior distance runner was named Nevada Gatorade Female Cross Country Athlete of the Year in fall, celebrated regional title in 3200 meter in spring
Reed senior distance runner Sam King-Shaw is the Sparks Tribune Female Athlete of the Year.
It would be easy to look at her credentials and believe she’s always run for distance. Growing up, she would pop in the headphones and run to solve problems that seemed much larger then. She piled up cross country trophies that collect more dust than attention. Running was her identity.
That narrative would resonate. It would also be inaccurate.
King-Shaw played soccer when she first walked through the doors at Reed in the fall of 2013. It was a phase that quickly faded. Her prep futbol career lasted one season.
As a sophomore, she chose to trade her shin guards for shin splits and join the cross country squad. After working out with the cross country team in the preseason, she quickly made the decision to give up the game she’d played since first grade.
“I got out there and I really liked it, like a lot more than I liked soccer, so I just decided,” she said.
When asked if it was a difficult choice to make, her answer to succinct.
Three years later, she would become the best cross country runner in the state.
King-Shaw was a natural, to her own surprise, taking sixth and 16th at regionals and state respectively in her rookie year. As a junior, she climbed up the leaderboard, finishing third and seventh. In November, King-Shaw won the 4A North regional title and the 4A state title. She was named the Nevada Gatorade Female Cross Country Athlete of the Year.
In the state race, she shaved 43 seconds off her regional-title time for a personal best of 18:09 – 18 seconds clear of the field.
“That was pretty much the coolest feeling ever,” she said in February. “It was just a really amazing culmination of the last three years I’ve put into cross country – pretty much, I couldn’t have imagined a better ending.”
Familiarity with running factored in her decision to abandon the pitch. She ran cross country and track in middle school and continued track as a freshman, just in a different capacity. She ran the 800 meters a couple times. That was her longest event as an individual. Her focus then was on sprinting events.
“That went better with soccer, so I thought those two would work better together,” King-Shaw said. “And then my sophomore year for track, was kind of a transition stage.”
As a sophomore, King-Shaw started to test her endurance. She ditched the 100m and added the 1600m. The following spring, as a junior, she dropped the 400m and added the 3200m. It would become her strongest and preferred event. Like in cross country, her skill was innate.
She immediately won the regional title, then state title in a time of 11:31.64.
“I was really shocked, actually. I didn’t really have any expectations that year in the 3200m, just because it was my first year doing it,” she said. “That was the best, unexpected surprise.”
Last month, King-Shaw defended her 3200m regional title and trimmed over 19 seconds off that time at the state meet, finishing second. She also finished sixth in the 1600m.
Now, she’s headed to Washington State of the Pac-12 to continue her athletic career. As she has the last three years of her life, she will run cross country in the fall and track in the spring.
She was so set on WSU and its zoology undergrad program that she chose it over the Ivy League. Cornell also accepted her.
“I don’t really like the east coast, if I’m being completely honest with you,” King-Shaw said.
That doesn’t mean she’s completely rejected the idea. She is juggling the possibility of enrolling at Cornell graduate school to study veterinary medicine.
So no, she doesn’t have a pile of running trophies and medals that first formed in her childhood. Instead, she has a collection that began the fall of her sophomore year.
That collection includes two state titles in two different sports and now a college scholarship.
Running wasn’t her identity in her youth. But it certainly is now.
Female Athlete of the Year Honorable Mention
Mackenzie O’Connell, Spanish Springs – The senior setter was one of the most versatile players in Northern Nevada for the Cougars’ volleyball program in the fall. It was common for O’Connell to fill all five categories in the stat sheet (ace, block, dig, assist and kill). She was awarded with a first-team all-league selection. In the winter, she was received honorable mention for the basketball program after averaging 3.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
Senifa Po’oi, Sparks – Po’oi was one of the best female athletes to compete for Sparks in a handful of years. Unfortunately, a torn ACL in both knees limited her senior year. She was a standout goalkeeper and played all four years at the varsity level. She capped her prep athletic career at the 3A state track meet as the only individual from Sparks (girls or boys) to qualify. She won the titles in both the shotput and discus.
Kalli Prendergast, Spanish Springs – Prendergast was an enforcer for both the girls soccer and girls basketball programs.
*Athletes are required to be multi-sport seniors to be considered for Sparks Tribune Female Athlete of the Year.
**The 2016-17 Sparks Tribune Male Athlete of the Year will be revealed next week. The Sparks boys soccer team was named the Sparks Tribune Team of the Year.