STUDENT-ATHLETE SPOTLIGHT: Johntavia Shaw (Track & Field)


When 4-foot-10 Johntavia Shaw steps into the circle, she doesn’t look like she’s the No. 1 shot putter and discus thrower on Winthrop’s ’s and team. But we all know, looks can be deceiving.
 
She doesn’t look like she should have claimed first in the shot put  in just her third indoor . But she did after a heave of 43-feet-11 inches in the VMI Winter .
 
She doesn’t look like she should have won back-to-back outdoor titles in both the shot and discus in the Catamount Classic and Adidas Winthrop Invitational. But she did with throws of 43-7 and 44-0.5 in the shot and 143-2 and 144-5 in the discus.
 
She doesn’t look like she’d come back to start her sophomore indoor campaign this past January by breaking a school shot put record that had stood for 23 years with a throw of 46-5.874 just a little over two months after tearing her meniscus. But she did.
 
She doesn’t look like she would earn All-Big South Honors with a third-place finish. And, she did.Johntavia Shaw
 
So what’s the secret? It’s tremendously strong legs, technique, and hard work.
 
“My legs are definitely my biggest attribute,” Johntavia said recently. “Anytime I’m in the weight room, working on my legs is a big emphasis.  
 
“Contrary to what most people think it’s not your arms that make you a good thrower. Actually, it’s all about your legs, hips and technique. You have to be explosive from the back of the circle to the front. It takes a lot of work.”
 
Johntavia started and at a very young age,  but she could decide what  regimen she wanted to concentrate on.
 
“I did everything,” she recalled. “I was a sprinter, a jumper and I even played around with the distances. But one day I picked up the shot, threw it and said this just might be fun. I wanted to keep doing it.
    
“I met up with some really good coaches who didn’t care all that much about my height. They said that since I was really into throwing let’s see what we can do to get you competitive at a top level. And we went from there.”
 
By the time she finished Countryside High School in Clearwater, Fla., she was one of the state’s best in both the shot and discus. In addition to her athletic accomplishments, she was a standout in the classroom.  
 
Johntavia was ready for the next step.
 
“When I started looking at colleges, I started with the Power Five schools,” Johntavia said. “Even though I was already throwing better than some of their , the coaches weren’t looking at my stats but they were looking at my size.
 
“I was very discouraged, so I narrowed my search and started looking at smaller schools.”
 
That’s when she appeared on Winthrop assistant coach Brett Best‘s radar.
“She was the third or fourth best thrower in ,” Best recalled. “I knew she could help us immediately. I felt we could work with her height and she would get better.”
 
Johntavia was so impressed with Best that she “pulled the trigger” and headed to Rock Hill.
 
So how does Johntavia handle the funny looks and whispers when she competes?
 
“I’m in such a zone when I step in the circle that I don’t have any idea what’s going on around me,” she said.  “But one of my teammates once told me that people would look at each other and say things like what’s she doing here?
 
“So when I’m competing I have a chip on my shoulder and feel like I have something to prove. It’s great motivation.” 
 
And so far it’s worked very well.





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