As a kicker on the Wharton High School varsity football team and a defender on the varsity boys soccer team, Zach Godbold relies on his legs quite a bit.
But, it’s his right arm and throwing ability, that could take him furthest in his athletic endeavors.
The 17-year-old New Tampa resident happens to be one of the nation’s top high school javelin throwers, as a junior on the Wharton varsity track and field team.
At an AAU meet last month in Fort Lauderdale, Godbold recorded a javelin throw of 191 feet, which, for a short period, ranked No. 1 nationally for junior athletes 18 years old and under.
While the mark has since been surpassed, it still ranks among the top 10 throws nationally —and tops in Florida.
“He’s by far the No. 1 in the state,” Wharton track and field coach Kyle LoJacono said.
The feat earned Godbold a coveted spot at the annual New Balance National Outdoor meet, regarded as the most prestigious postseason track and field championships for high school athletes. The meet, set for June in Greensboro, North Carolina, showcases more than 2,900 of America’s elite and emerging high school talent.
Not one to regularly look up his national ranking, Godbold couldn’t help himself following his recent performance in South Florida.
“I actually hadn’t been looking at the national rankings at all,” he said, “but then, after I threw that one and it felt really good, I went and looked it up, and I was very happy, obviously.”
Godbold isn’t settling with his current mark, though. He said he wants to surpass 210 feet in the javelin by the end of the year.
“I was very excited with my throw this year because it’s so early in the season, that later on I’m hoping to improve on that, obviously,” Godbold said.
Javelin comes naturally
Success in javelin is not foreign to Godbold, since taking up the discipline about six years ago.
When he was 12 years old, he finished second overall in javelin for his age division at the 2014 AAU Junior Olympics Track and Field meet in Des Moines, Iowa.
Over the years, he’s gone on to finish among the top performers multiple times for his age bracket in the Junior Olympics championships, including earning a gold medal as a 14-year-old when the meet was in Houston, Texas.
Godbold also competes in the shotput and discus.
Like javelin, he took up the throwing events after growing tired of always running in track and field, which he did mainly to stay in shape for football season.
“I really didn’t want to run anymore,” Godbold said, “so I just tried all three of the throwing events.”
Javelin has come most natural to Godbold, as a multi-sport athlete with a background in baseball and football.
He explained: “I’ve always been playing sports where I have to like throw a ball. I always played baseball, football — I was the backup quarterback for like Hail Marys — so I’ve always just been like throwing something and it just translates, like having a strong arm.”
“It was something that just translated to me really well,” he said.
Javelin, however, takes more than throwing ability to master, said Godbold, who stands at 6 feet and 190 pounds.
As “probably the most technical” of all throwing events in track and field, Godbold noted javelin requires power and strength from the lower body.
Godbold practices his throws about two or three times per week. The rest of the time is dedicated to quick sprints and medicine ball work, as opposed to lifting heavy weights.
“It’s more like throwing with your legs than your arms, despite what people think. It’s about more running and working with your legs and stuff,” he said.
Lofty goals ahead
Godbold’s javelin performances of late have drawn the attention of major college track and field programs.
He’s received interest from the likes of Florida, Florida State, Cornell and Stanford universities, among others.
“I’m definitely trying to make the Division I level,” Godbold said.
The 2024 Olympics is also on his long-term radar. “That would definitely be a goal of mine, to compete for the U.S.,” he said.
More immediately, Godbold is looking to make history at the FHSAA (Florida High School Athletic Association) track and field meet over the next two years.
The FHSAA, for the first time ever, will crown an individual champion in the javelin as a provisional event, after it’s been an exhibition event each of the last two years.
However, the javelin throw won’t accumulate points toward team scores until the 2020 season when it officially becomes the FHSAA’s 18th sanctioned track and field event.
“My goal is to win states,” Godbold said, “and then hopefully next year, when it’s an official event, do the same and score points.”
Meantime, the prospect of finally being able to benefit from the elite javelin thrower has Wharton coaches excited.
“It’ll be huge,” LoJacono said, noting the track team would’ve won a recent divisional meet had Godbold’s javelin throws counted toward scoring.
It also has the team gearing up for the event sooner than other area schools, said longtime Wharton throws coach Wes Newton.
Said Newton, “Because we have Zach, and because they’re (the FHSAA) going to put the javelin in, we started the javelin much earlier than most everybody else, and so, no school in this county does what we do, because we have him.”
Newton also said Godbold’s presence in the javelin has led to several other Wharton athletes taking up the throwing event.
“We have four guys that throw the javelin and about five girls that throw the javelin,” Newton said. “No other school has that.”
Published April 03, 2019