An expanded trophy case may soon be on Chris Jensen’s wish list. This past weekend, Jensen embarked on the State Games of America in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he hoped to defend his gold medal accomplishment from 2017 and add to his medal count.
“Obviously, you’d think that since you won it the previous time you’d want to do it again,” Jensen said. “My goal is always to just bring medals back, and then if I can do something about it, get higher medals.”
Jensen qualified in the shot put and discus at the games thanks to his performance in 2017, where he earned gold in the shot put and bronze in the discus. The State Games of America is a bi-annual national Olympic-style event that compiles athletes of all ages who compete in dozens of sports and activities.
This was the sixth edition in which Jensen has participated. The Games have taken him to Colorado Springs, Colorado; San Diego, California; Hershey, Pennsylvania; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“I don’t know why, I just love doing it,” he said. “It’s fun to go state to state, travel. It’s nice. And just the passion of it. You see all the amateur baseball guys, it’s kind of like that. They’re not star athletes, but if you enjoy doing it, might as well keep doing it ‘til you can’t.”
He entered having earned five bronze medals and one gold medal for his efforts at the Games, including his first-place finish in the men’s shot put 30-34 age division in 2017 with a toss of 11.91 meters, or approximately 39 feet. He placed third in the discus that year with a toss of 34.21 meters, or approximately 112 1/4 feet.
With the Games approaching, he found himself practicing almost every day to prepare. Jensen, a former Hutchinson track and field throwing coach, has had several past Hutchinson athletes join him for these training sessions, including Zach Synstelien, who participated in the last Games. Even with years of coaching experience, Jensen sometimes finds it hard to practice what he preaches.
“You can coach the perfect technique all day long, but doing it is a whole ‘nother thing,” he said. “I can look at you and say this, this, this, but you put me in there, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be perfect at it.”
The Meeker County resident, who lives south of Darwin, was a thrower in high school and competed at the amateur level for more than a decade. Jensen still finds parts of his technique that need fixing.
“It changes all the time, so there’s plenty of technique corrections, plenty of this, this, this to work on,” he said. “You’ve got to hit the right spots every time, and it’s hard to do. I always feel something and I always have to work on it.”
While his shot put performance was better than his discus in the last Games, Jensen thinks based on practice performance, that may change this year.
“My shot isn’t going as well as it used to. … You can lift all you want, but as you get older it gets harder,” he said. “So (shot put) is a little down more than I want, but I think the last week or so of disc has been going much better than I expected. This year might be a disc year.”
Jensen competed in the discus on Saturday morning and posted a distance of 31.26 meters, or about 102 1/2 feet, 10 feet shorter than his performance in 2017. He returned to compete in the shot put Sunday and had a long toss of 10.27 meters, or about 33 2/3 feet, which was also shorter than his prior performance.
“My distances were not what I was hoping for, but that’s how throwing goes,” Jensen said. “One day you’re on and the next day can be a disaster... Both days were hot and muggy, which affected pretty much everybody, but it was still the most fun State Games I’ve been a part of. All of the competitors were very nice and supported everyone.”
Despite posting throws that didn’t live up to his expectations, Jensen added a pair of medals to his count after finishing in second place in both events. Regardless of distance, his performance accomplished a goal he set prior to leaving for Virginia.
“In Nebraska I didn’t win anything, so that was not a fun drive home,” he said. “I just want to bring (home) medals.”