Free State’s Aubrey Duncan sets school record while winning state title to end debut season
photo by: Shane Jackson
Darrell Andrew has coached a lot of talented javelin throwers at Free State since the school opened in 1997, and he says the rookie season he just witnessed from Aubrey Duncan stacks up with the best of them.
Duncan didn’t get to compete as a freshman last year because the spring sports seasons were canceled, but she had a sensational debut as a sophomore. On Thursday at the Class 6A state meet in Wichita, she capped it off with a state title and a school-record throw of 142-10.
“It was a very impressive season for essentially a rookie thrower,” Andrew said. “Aubrey just fits that mold of being somebody that you want to be part of your program. She makes other people around her better. She’s more than willing to put in any extra work you ask her to do. We just love what she brings to our program.”
Part of what makes Duncan such a good athlete, Andrew said, is that she’s very coachable: “She accepts feedback in a very positive manner, and she turns right back around and puts it to use to better her performance.”
That mindset and her natural athletic ability allowed Duncan to make her mark on Free State sports history, despite not having much experience in javelin prior to this season.
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When Duncan, who is also a volleyball player, decided to try track. she was drawn to javelin from the start. It fit well: On the volleyball court, she was a powerful hitter who played above the net, and she knew that the skills from one sport could translate well to the other.
“Volleyball players throw javelin, so I thought this could be fun,” Duncan said. “I just fell in love with it.”
Duncan wanted to compete in 2020, but after the 2020 season was canceled she didn’t pick up a javelin again until the following spring. It didn’t take long, though, for Duncan or her coach to realize that this season could be special.
At her first meet, Duncan threw for 126-06, which is a mark many throwers spend their whole careers striving to reach. By her fourth meet, Duncan won a competition at Lawrence High with a 135-08. At the time, it was the third-best throw in Free State’s history.
“I think she’s just a natural athlete,” FSHS head coach Jordan Rose said. “Javelin is a very awkward kind of unnatural movement. When I first started seeing her throw, when I would go up at practice to watch, I just noticed that she makes this unnatural event seem very natural.”
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During the first few meets, Duncan’s primary competition was Lawrence High senior Amaya Harris, who competed at three state meets in her career and placed in each one, including a third-place finish last weekend.
But later in the season, Duncan faced another big test: competing against some of the top throwers in the state at the Shawnee Mission North relays on May 7. She rose to the challenge, winning the event with a throw of 135-02.
That was the moment when a state title started to become a real possibility.
“That gave us our first real taste of what state was going to be like,” Andrew said. “What I saw out of Aubrey at that point was her competitive side. She’s just somebody that no matter who is there, her goal is to beat that person. She just has that mindset that nothing is going to get in her way.”
Duncan finished as runner-up at regionals and entered the state meet as the No. 2 seed.
Although she was scheduled to throw at 8 a.m., weather pushed the start of the track meet to noon. But the delay didn’t bother her, and neither did the strong numbers other throwers had posted by the time it was her turn.
Duncan’s first throw of 138-10 set the pace early on, and she fired the winning throw of 142-10 on her third attempt. Five of her six throws traveled 133 feet or farther; the lone exception was an attempt where she accidentally dragged the javelin.
“She threw the best that I’ve seen anybody on a Free State High School javelin squad throw in that (series of six) throws,” Andrew said.
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What’s next for Duncan after she ended her debut season with a gold medal and a school record?
It might be an even bigger record, Andrew said: the statewide mark.
To do that, she’ll have to add another 30 feet to her best throw. But Andrew said there’s no reason to believe she can’t handle it — and that she might be more involved in other events moving forward, as well.
“I think the sky’s the limit for Aubrey,” Andrew said. “I know now that she has a school record, she’s going to set her focus on something else.”
“I guarantee her goal is going to be to set a state record before she’s out of here,” he added.