SIMMS — On the final javelin throw of his high school career, Simms senior Josey Hinderager uncorked a toss of 167 feet, 4 inches to set a PR by four feet and more importantly, clinch a State C title.
“I wasn’t throwing great, mostly in the 150’s and my first two throws in the finals were still not the best,” Hinderarger said. “But that third one, I just kind of ran as fast as I could and threw as hard as I could and it worked out.”
Moments later, a rush of relief and gratitude.
“I think it was the podium is when it finally all hit me,” he said. “All the hard parts of the last year.. It all went away after that last throw, my mom was bawling and everyone was happy. That was really, really nice to see.”
It was a fitting high to cap of a year of lows for Josey and his family.
In the winter of his junior year, Hinderager started to feel chest pain following a bout with COVID. He didn’t think much of it and finished basketball season. But the pain and discomfort persisted.
“My chest started to really hurt, so I went in, and figured out this is kind of a serious deal, I found out in the spring that I had pericarditis,” he said. “And this fall I learned that my doctors didn't really want me to do anything with contact. The heart is delicate. So there was a potential for cardiac arrest, and all it would take was one blow.”
Hinderager, who claims football as his favorite sport, is a 6-3 tight end and defensive linemen who was being recruited by several Montana colleges. But his contact sports career was forced to a premature end.
Pericarditis is swelling and irritation of the thin, saclike tissue surrounding the heart. If caused by a viral infection it can prove fatal.
The diagnosis was a hard pill to swallow for the active teenager.
“Sports were a huge part of my life,” Hinderarger said. “I remember talking to my coach (Jay Fredrickson) about it, and we were both devastated.”
But Josey made the most of his fall. Fredrickson wanted to make sure Hinderager’s presence was still felt on the sideline, so he asked Josey to be a student assistant coach.
“I loved it. Any given game day, I still had the butterflies and everything. But I really did take football for granted,” Hinderager said. “And I tell my teammates that like this is fun. I envy you. I’d give anything to go play again. But I still had fun on the sidelines.”
Josey was also forced to skip basketball season. But doctors cleared him for track if he avoided contact. Track and field was never his strong suit, but he won a district javelin title as a junior in only his second time ever throwing, but finished 11th at Northern C.
He wasn’t sure if track and field was in the cards, even after he was cleared.
“This year I was kind of deciding whether to do a track or not,” he said. “But then I told myself it's my last sport probably that I’ll ever get to do. So give it your best and you got nothing to lose, so why not?”
And it paid off. Hinderager increased his distance by nearly 30 feet from the start of the season to his final throw at State C in Laurel. He ends his athletic career as a state champion, with a shiny medal and a brand new outlook.
“I do think I have become more grateful over this past year, and I really hope that I can continue to see this way through the rest of my life,” he said.
Winning a state title is hard, especially in a sport like track where hundreds of individuals try to push their bodies to the limit for top times and distances. But Hinderager’s road to a championship required an extra degree of difficulty.