Red River junior Shelby Frank eyes state discus record
Bragging rights in the family now belong to Shelby Frank.
But the Grand Forks Red River High School junior wants more. Frank isn't satisfied being the best discus thrower in her family. She has a loftier goal—to be the best ever in North Dakota.
Frank threw the discus 167 feet last weekend at the prestigious Howard Wood Relays in Sioux Falls, S.D. That set a meet record as well as surpassing the longest high school throw by her mother, Steph Wigness.
Wigness, who also threw for Red River, set her personal record with the state championship throw of 164-10 in the 1995 Class A state meet.
Frank said she's known the distances her mother threw since the junior became interested in track. "I always wanted to beat her,'' Frank said. "And she's always wanted me to beat her throws. It was pretty big for me when I did it. And she was proud of me.
"But I don't want to just beat my mom's records. I want to keep going up the charts, to be the best ever in North Dakota. That's a big goal of mine.''
Frank is on the cusp of a record run.
The state meet record of 172 feet was set in 1999 by another Red River standout, Briona Reynolds. Frank is three-time defending state discus champion, winning last season with a throw of 155-11 that is the seventh-longest in state meet history.
Her throw at the Howard Wood would rank second in state meet history. In an unofficial list compiled by Bismarck coaches of the state's all-time best performances, including regular-season meets, Frank ranks sixth in Class A discus. Atop that list is Reynolds at 179-1.
Nationally, the throw at Howard Wood puts Frank at the third-longest throw in the country this season, according to listings on the track and field website www.athletic.net.
"Shelby potentially could be the best we've ever had,'' Grand Forks discus coach Lee Baker said. "She's not there yet. But she has the physical attributes—she's tall, she's strong, she's loose-shouldered. All of those things serve her well.
"And she always wants to do better. She's always putting in extra time practicing and throwing.''
Baker, in fact, predicted Frank's big throw prior to the Sioux Falls meet.
"Baker kept saying I looked like I was ready to uncork a big one,'' Frank said. "And after that one, he told me there's still more in the tank.''
The throw at the Howard Wood Relays opened up a new level for Frank. She's now surpassed 160 feet in three straight meets, including a meet-record 164-foot throw Friday at the Grand Forks Classic.
The Sioux Falls meet seems to have broken a barrier for Frank, who previously had only one 160-footer in high school competition.
"I was getting frustrated,'' Frank said. "When you start throwing, as you get better and better, you hit (personal record) after PR. But they get harder to achieve as you throw farther. I'd gotten close in some meets, but it had been so long since I broke my PR.''
Frank also is defending state champion in the shot put and has the state's best throw this season. But she laughs at the suggestion that the shot is close to the discus as a personal favorite event.
"I've started to like the shot more,'' Frank said. "It's grown on me a little bit. But it's not even close to the discus. That seems to come more naturally to me. I get much more excited for the discus.
"The more reps you put in, the better you get. Throwing the discus is something I just really love doing.''
Frank puts in the time to excel. She doesn't throw in the winter, when she earned all-conference honors in basketball this past season. Otherwise, the day is rare when Frank doesn't spend some time throwing the discus.
Her success, which includes championships in her age division at the past two Junior Olympics national meets, has garnered attention.
College recruiters from NDSU, the University of Minnesota, Indiana, LSU, Washington and Kansas State have talked to Frank. She estimates she's received mail correspondence from approximately 50 to 100 other college track programs.
To throw 180 feet, "that's my high school dream throw,'' Frank said. "In college, it's bigger than that. I want to compete at the next level.''
For now, Baker said Reynolds' state meet record is within Frank's range right now.
"I think Shelby can throw it that far,'' Baker said. "If the conditions are favorable, absolutely. She's starting to really come on strong. In practices, in meets, she looks good. Her throws are snappy. She's smooth and explosive.
"Shelby looks like she's ready for some really good throws.''
The 10 best
Here is an unofficial list of the 10 longest discus throws in North Dakota Class A high school track, as compiled by Bismarck High School track coaches.
1.Briona Reynolds, RR, 179-1 (1999)
2. Disa Salander, GFC, 170-2 (1994)
3. Amber Gibbs, GFC, 168-8 (1998)
4. Patty Purpur, RR, 168-6 (1985)
5. Dani Parkos, GFC, 167-5 (1992)
6. Shelby Frank, RR, 167-0 (2019)
7. Steph Wigness, RR, 164-10 (1995)
8. Cassie Romuld, GFC, 163-8 (1996)
9. Julia Pederson, RR, 163-0 (1998)
10. Amanda Solberg, Minot, 161-10 (2005)