At 55 years old, after millions of throws and thousands of competitions, Jon Claymore’s passion for the javelin burns as bright as ever — and his drive to be the best still knows no limit.
Even after 43 years as a competitor in the javelin, from high school through the NCAA national championships to the senior U.S. Track and Field events in which he participates to this day, he’s still meticulous, constantly tinkering with his approach and throw to squeeze out a few more feet in distance.
And he never misses an opportunity to focus on his other favorite past-time — teaching young athletes about his favorite athletic endeavor.
As he prepared last week to hit a predetermined mark in the World Masters Virtual Challenge on the athletic fields at Kingston High School, he took the time to explain everything he was doing to those in attendance, which included a couple of his Claymore’s Chuckers, a group of student-athletes he coaches.
“That pain does feel good,” Claymore said as he analyzed the process of planting his foot and driving his body through the throw. “Because when you hit right, you’ll know, it just takes off out of your hand.”
All of that attention to detail paid off last week when, on his third throw, he let out a huge grunt as he hurled the javelin 146 feet, 6.5 inches, good for the top spot in his age bracket in the Virtual Challenge.
That completes one of his two goals for 2020 — his other is beating the top U.S. distance in any javelin competition this year, which is 151 feet, 6 inches.
“I’m coming back out here tomorrow,” Claymore joked.
That persistent attitude that has served Claymore well during his time as a dedicated track and field athlete. His journey began with a small javelin his father gave him in seventh grade in Fort Yates, North Dakota. His father put a fishing reel on one side and told him to go spear carp in the Missouri River, which helped develop his arm motion and speed.
That simple act opened big doors for him, as he received an athletic scholarship to the University of Nebraska, where he excelled in Big Eight and made it to the national championships as a sophomore. But after his father became ill, he moved back to North Dakota and finished his education at Jamestown College. He even qualified for Olympic trials in 1988, but had to take a few years off afterward due to elbow issues.
Claymore continued to compete throughout his adult life, though he admitted that he was “a potato chip away from 300” pounds and was diagnosed with diabetes at age 39. He refocused on regular exercise, including his javelin training, and that has helped him control his diabetes to the point where he has not needed medication in eight years.
He also has built on his passion for helping young people. During the day, Claymore is the director of the Office of Native Education for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction — he is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in Eagle Butte, South Dakota.
Once his day job is over, he’s out coaching kids in the javelin, either at Kingston High School, where his children all attended, or in his Claymore’s Chuckers group, which has 22 athletes from seven high schools, including Bainbridge, North Kitsap and Kingston.
“He’s passionate about the javelin, but as an overall coach he’s just amazing,” Kingston track coach Lee Willson said.
And his athletes were happy to help out last week as he had volunteers filming, marking and pulling the measuring tape through on his six attempts. After making a couple of adjustments from his initial throws, Claymore hit 132 feet, one inch, edging closer to the top mark in the World Master’s Virtual Challenge.
Then came the big throw, which was followed by a big grunt and the exhortation to himself, “Come on!” as he watched it land well past the first cone he had put down on the field to signify the distance he wanted.
The competition remains open for another couple of weeks, so Claymore have to wait to see if anyone beats that distance. It also gives him time to work on his second goal of being the best thrower in his age bracket in the country.
“It’s the best I’ve thrown in three years,” he said.