Helena — The 2017 Class AA state track and field meet was filled with heartbreak for Helena Capital’s Justin Jenks.
Jenks lost the state shot put title to Billings West’s Bryson Deming by one and a half inches. He also finished behind the Deming twins in the discus, finishing fourth.
With Braydon and Bryson Deming now playing college football at the University of Montana, Jenks is the favorite for the shot put and discus titles. Still, he has kept a level head and hasn’t approached the season any differently.
“I don’t really embrace the role of favorite, I just go to throw and have fun and that’s it,” Jenks said. “I’m just going to work on speed through the ring and getting a better release.”
Staying loose and having fun is certainly paying dividends for the Bruins senior. Jenks has set and broke the school record in the discus on more than one occasion this season, and currently leads Class AA with a toss of 170 feet, 2 inches.
But it’s in the shot put that Jenks has distanced himself from the rest of the field. At the Swede Dahlberg Invitational, Jenks came up just over a foot short of the meet record after a toss of 61-03 ½. He followed that performance with another dominant outing at the prestigious Russ Pilcher Top 10, setting the meet record in the shot put with a toss of 58-04. Jenks’ goal is to throw 70 feet, which would break the all-class record in the shot put held by Great Falls High’s Dennis Black. Black set the record in 1991 with a toss of 68-00 ½.
The competition around Jenks is fueling these monstrous throws. Early in the season,Jenks and Deer Lodge’s Austin Forson met head-to-head in both the discus and shot put. Forson, the Class B discus record holder, got the better of Jenks in the discus, but Jenks launched his school-record throw in a runner-up finish. In the shot put, Jenks dominated the field, while Forson threw his season best.
“When you’re competing with the guy that’s best in the state for discus, it’s amazing. You get a sense of the competition. It fuels your competition and you throw better,” Jenks said of his showdown with Forson. “You can’t really throw good without good competition. You always have to have that person behind you that’s pushing you to go farther.”
Versatility defines Jenks. His raw athleticism is deceiving, as he stands 6-foot-4 and weighs north of 230 pounds. Last season, Jenks ran 12.05 in the 100-meter dash in his only attempt all season, and also long jumped 18-07 ½. That athleticism transfers to the football field as well, where Jenks racked up 19 career sacks at defensive end for the Bruins.
The combination of size and athleticism caught the eyes of NCAA Division II school Colorado State University-Pueblo, where Jenks will play defensive end for the football team while also throwing for the track team.
Jenks’ work ethic and attention to detail leave him only one place to go.
“I’m just going to keep rising,” he said.