Soldotna’s Paige Blackburn has been out of high school for over five years now, but she thinks she is heading into the best years of her athletic career.
The 2012 Air Force graduate recently finished an impressive seventh in the javelin event at the U.S. National Track and Field meet in Des Moines, Iowa, with a career-best throw of 173 feet, 9 inches. She also competed in the discus, but had an off day by fouling on her three preliminary throws.
“This year was kind of an experiment to see how it would go, and it got better than I could imagine,” Blackburn said. “I’ve improved in the discus and javelin so much, it’s kind of surprised me.”
The 2008 SoHi grad is currently working as a research assistant at the University of Florida. Blackburn said the school’s structural engineering program is one of the best in the country. She was able to take the opportunity through the Air Force, which covers her tuition to teach.
Blackburn said she plans on completing three semesters there before she graduates in December, but in the meantime, she’s discovering she still has some power left in the tank.
Coming into the national meet last week, Blackburn was ranked 10th nationwide, and bettered that with her seventh-place result. Earlier this year in the discus, she was ranked 35th, but she left Iowa with a 10th-place ranking.
“The Air Force has a ‘World-Class Athlete’ program, which is essentially a full-time job to train for the Olympics,” she said. “I’m going to try to apply for that.”
In addition to her personal best javelin throw, Blackburn has also made tremendous strides in the discus during the year, with a season best of 188—3, a throw that would have easily made the finals.