Boys Track: James leaves Maine East as one of Demons’ best
Park Ridge March 18, 2011 Maine East's James Shields competes in the triple jump during the Maine East High School Indoor Championship. | Suzanne Tennant~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 8, 2012 8:33AM
Maine East senior James Shields was determined to make an impact at the Class 3A state meet this season and to be a leader for the Blue Demons track team.
He was successful in both areas, though he may not have lived up to his own lofty standards.
At last month’s state meet in Charleston, Shields jumped a career-best 46-feet-8 on his final jump, earning a sixth-place medal. He became the first Maine East athlete to capture a medal at state since Jovan Jovanovich finished second in the shot put in 2004.
Shields had sat 10th heading into his final attempt.
“It was my last jump and I needed a big jump, but I could have done better. I jumped from behind the board (line),” said Shields, who had hoped to clear 47-0. “After the jump, I was mad. But not too long after that I got my medal and I was fine. I got over it. I still will have a chance to jump in college (Oakton), so I’m not done with track yet.”
Shields said not qualifying for the state meet his junior year helped inspire him to train harder and polish his technique for this season.
“I think I choked at sectionals (in 2011), barely missing state,” he said. “But it motivated me to do better, to tweak every little thing that I could and become a much better jumper, form-wise. This year, I didn’t use as much speed, but my form was better. I watched a lot of tapes of professional (jumpers) and that (also) made me more motivated to do better.”
First-year head coach Scott Schultes said he was amazed by the leadership Shields displayed. The senior took his role as team captain seriously.
“One of the things I’m most proud of with James was his maturity level, his dedication to himself and to the team. He led by example, he led practice and he was a kid who did chants to get the kids psyched up for meets,” the coach said.
Schultes recalled that during the winter, Shields would participate in three-mile runs outdoors with the Demons distance and middle distance runners, even though his specialties were jumps and hurdles.
The coach also said that on the coldest day of the year, Shields arrived early for a 6 a.m. practice despite having to walk 30 minutes to the school because he didn’t have a ride.
“Most kids would have slept in,” the coach said.
Shields said it was important that he set the right tone for the program. Plus, the extra workouts improved his own fitness.
“(In 2011) our senior class was kind of weak and I wanted to be a leader, and I stepped up to (that role),” Shields said. “I felt I could be a leader and set a good example for everybody and leave some type of legacy. Hopefully, the juniors, when they have to be leaders, will have learned something and will do the same thing next year. If they do, eventually Maine East will raise its level of performance.”
Shields didn’t waste any time announcing that he had raised his level of performance over the previous year. In March, he finished second in the triple jump at the Prep Top Times indoor meet in Bloomington, against the state’s top athletes.
He leaves Maine East with his name plastered all over the school’s record boards.
“Maine East has a pretty remarkable tradition of track and field, even though it has not been super strong the last 10 or 15 years,” Schultes said. “But on the record board there are some phenomenal records from guys who were some of the best in the state, and (Shields) is the best Maine East has ever seen, as far as jumps.
“He has the triple jump record indoors and outdoors and he went to the York meet and set records for triple jump in their fieldhouse. It’s pretty impressive what the kid has accomplished, and leading by example is the best way to lead. He brought up the level of all the guys around him, and we’ll miss that next year.”