Hartnell College sophomore and former Hollister High standout Zach Sims does the Shoey after winning the javelin in the California Community College Athletic Association State Track and Field Championships in May. Photo courtesy of Zach Sims.
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From being a nobody on the leaderboards last season to becoming a state champion and throwing in front of an Olympian this year. 

That’s one of the ways in how Zach Sims aptly described his meteoric ascent into California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) history. On May 19 in Modesto, the Hartnell College sophomore won the State Championship in the javelin with a throw of 61.23 meters (200 feet, 11 inches), capping one of the more incredible one-year jumps you’ll ever see in any sport at any level.

To wit: Sims, a 2021 Hollister High graduate, didn’t even qualify for the NorCal Trials in the javelin last year as a freshman. But he dedicated himself in the off-season, gained experience, got stronger and continually honed his technique to become Hartnell’s second-ever men’s state javelin champion. 

Sims described his performance in the Championships—in which two of his six throws eclipsed 200 feet—as otherworldly. 

“It was pretty surreal at the moment,” he said. “Very adrenaline filled. Being able to pop the farthest community college throw in California and being able to place myself sixth nationally, it all happened so fast and so slow at the same time.”

Sims plans on transferring after the fall 2023 semester, and options should abound after his State performance. The only question now is which event Sims will compete in at the four year level, the decathlon or javelin?

“A couple of schools want me for the decathlon and a lot of schools want me for the javelin, so I have to make a decision,” he said. “Do I have to give up events I love doing like the long jump and triple jump or do I want to be a full-time javelin thrower? I guess it’ll come down to which school makes the best offer.” 

Sims has the ability to do the decathlon because of his varied skill set. This season in addition to the javelin he competed in the 100-meter dash, 400, 1500, 110 hurdles, shot put, discus, high jump, long jump, triple jump and pole vault. 

Before Sims rocketed toward a State championship in the javelin, he was more known for being a jumper. The triple jump and long jump were his best events in high school, as he placed third and fifth, respectively, in those events in the 2021 Central Coast Section Championships. 

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Sims was also a member of the 4×100 and 4×400 meter relay teams that won several races that season. Sims said he was having a disappointing freshman season last year in the jumping events until he made a decision that would ultimately change the trajectory of his athletic career: trying the javelin. 

“I picked up the javelin last year as a getaway event,” he said. “For me I was stressing too much about my main events so the javelin was a way to relieve some stress. Someone said triple jumpers make good javelin throwers and I should try it out.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Sims had a nice first season throwing the javelin, especially considering he got a late start in the event. He wound up with a season-best throw of 44.42 meters (145 feet, 7 inches)—impressive marks for a newbie but hardly State championship/elite material. 

“Honestly, freshman season was a below average season,” he said. “So it was that realization at the end of that season that I needed to step it up. So I put in a lot of off-season work, was in the gym a lot, and with my coach Frankie Martinez since last summer. 

“I told him I want to get better at this and wanted to make the javelin one of my better events, and he guided me and gave me the foundation. I also was able to put on so much more power in the off-season, able to make myself stronger, and within months we saw progress.”

Indeed, from the very first meet this season, Sims was “popping,” track and field vernacular for an explosive throw. Sims hit 47.70 meters in the opening competition March 17 and once he surpassed 50 meters in the next meet, he and Martinez—who incidentally is a former HHS standout and the Hartnell throws coach—knew something special was brewing. 

“Once I hit 50, then we knew we could go somewhere with this,” Sims said.

Sims basked and thrived in the competition of the State Championships, where he was facing multiple competitors who were throwing 55 meters and beyond. 

“I just love that competitive feel, so being able to compete with those guys was amazing,” he said. “Frankie believes my best throws come when I’m under pressure, so having that competition fueled me to hit those big throws knowing everyone was a threat.”

Sims’ other top highlight came March 30-31 in the West Coast Relays at Fresno State University. Competing in a field loaded with talent, including several Division I athletes, Sims took fourth with a throw of 57.63 meters, or 189 feet, 1 inches.

What excited Sims the most was competing in front of the recently retired all-time great Kara Winger, who is a nine-time national champion, the silver medalist in the 2022 World Championships and the only U.S. woman to qualify for four Olympic Games in the javelin. 

Winger was actually on-site doing meet commentary, and Sims said the West Coast Relays made the javelin the meet’s “main event.” 

“They called the javelin event Spears and Beers,” he said. “There was a whole runway with smoke machines, Kara Winger was out there commentating the whole thing. It was crazy because no one told me it was going to be like that. They had a barbecue set up, and a giant audience watching. It was crazy. Kara Winger came up to me personally and said, ‘You’re one of my favorites to watch,’ and I was just thinking no freaking way this was happening, it was absolutely surreal. Who would’ve thought this could’ve happened, from being a nobody on the leaderboards last season to now this year being first and throwing in front of an Olympian.”

Sims said his baseball background helped make his transition to javelin a little smoother. Even though there are obvious differences in throwing a baseball and a javelin, the motion is similar enough to where the skills are transferable. 

“It’s almost the same throwing motion which helps,” he said. “Most javelin throwers have a baseball background. And compared to the other throws, the shot, discus, it’s an entirely different throwing technique. And the hammer is just crazy [different].”

After he received his medal atop the podium for winning the CCCAA state title, Sims performed the Shoey, a maneuver in which a victorious athlete pours a beverage into their shoe before drinking out of it. Sims soaked it all in and enjoyed the moment and despite it being a long season, didn’t want things to end. 

“I know most kids are happy the season ended, but I wish it could go longer,” he said. “It’s just so much fun and I can’t just sit in my house. I need to go out and do something.”

That’s why Sims only took a week or two off—he could’ve easily taken additional weeks—for a mandatory rest period before getting back to training. 

“Since I’m considering doing the decathlon at the D-I level, I’m taking the time now to continue learning the pole vault,” he said. “So I’m back in the weight room three to four times a week and practicing the pole vault two times a week. I really want to get better and I’ve got goals to accomplish and will do everything it takes to get there.”

Zach Sims’ meteoric ascent in the javelin has him receiving offers from four-year programs.
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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.

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