Javelin track event catching on at Routt County schools
April 26, 2009
Steamboat Springs — Javelin came in with a whimper.
The centuries-old sport made what might have been its Northwest Colorado debut with little fanfare Wednesday afternoon at the Hayden Middle School track meet.
Many of the day’s first athletes had never even thrown a javelin before, and the inexperience showed as their tosses clanged to the ground after less than 30 feet.
It didn’t take long for the competition to heat up, however. Even with just three throws, the athletes improved, and by the time Hayden eighth-grader Mark Doolin was up, the javelin was soaring high and far over the football field behind Hayden High School.
Mark won the first javelin competition in Routt County that anyone can remember.
If several area track coaches have their way, the flight of the javelin won’t end anytime soon.
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The javelin event isn’t recognized by the Colorado High School Activities Association, meaning it isn’t contested at the CHSAA-sanctioned state championship meet.
There’s an effort to change that, however. A group of coaches approached the CHSAA’s track and field committee in 2007 and petitioned to have the event included.
“It was almost unanimously voted down,” said Rhonda Blanford-Green, CHSAA administrator of track and field. “But they’re trying to get some information to come back to the committee with a more comprehensive report.”
Among the issues that initially soured the committee on the idea were the cost of a new event, uncertainties about a statewide level of interest and, of course, safety.
“It’s another object that’s airborne,” said David Hammerschmidt, track coach at Thornton High School on the Front Range and a member of the CHSAA committee the year javelin was first pitched. “There are a lot of meet logistics to figure out. Javelin takes up a lot of area. Also, the biggest complaint I get from parents is that track meets are too long already.
“That’s not to say I wouldn’t be in favor of it. I just need to hear more.”
Steamboat Springs High School assistant track coach Ken Brenner is trying to be the one to help pass along that information.
He picked up the javelin while training to compete in master’s pentathlons and fell in love with the event.
He’s convinced there’s a natural place for javelin at the high school level. He pointed out that the dimensions required for discus are similar and that javelins don’t fly much farther.
“You would have to develop the officiating capacity,” Brenner said. “And you would need to find a way to fit it into the schedule, but field events are always done way before the end of a meet anyway.”
Brenner so believes in the event that he traveled to a pre-season coaching meeting to voice his opinion. He hopes to join allies in November to push the issue when the CHSAA track and field committee reconvenes.
“We’re trying to get it in with a tiered approach,” he said. “We first want it as a demonstration event, then the following season would be a more formal process but still a demonstration. Then, finally, we want to get it actually scored as a regular event three years from now.”
Routt County schools already have hurdled some of the imagined problems.
There’s no issue with finding coaches locally. Sally Brach-Morton, coach of the Hayden Middle School team and an assistant at the high school level, threw the javelin while competing for University of Northern Colorado. Cody Sweetser, who also competed in the event in college, has taken the lead in coaching the Hayden team.
Soroco coach David Bruner also has experience, having coached the event at a previous job in New Mexico.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Bruner said. “The build of a good javelin thrower is a little different. The bigger shot and discus throwers sometimes have a hard time with it. Then, a big lanky kid with long arms can sometimes throw it really far.”
Cost, on the other hand, has been an issue.
Brach-Morton picked out four javelins before the season, including two plastic training javelins that can be used in a gymnasium.
It all cost about $350, a far cry from the estimated $15,000 it might cost to add pole vault mats.
Soroco High School, meanwhile, has made do with a little less.
“We’ve worked on the steps, mainly having them holding on to a broom handle,” Bruner said.
Still, Soroco athletic director Andy Johnson said the school would be eager to invest in a few javelins if the sport really gained headway with CHSAA.
“It’s another opportunity for kids,” Johnson said, “and it’s one that’s not a huge cost.”
An eager audience
It’s an opportunity Routt County track athletes have flocked to, even with the shortcomings.
More than a dozen throwers competed Wednesday in Hayden. Area high schoolers will get a crack at the sport for the first time Monday, when Hayden High School hosts a track meet in Craig.
Brenner has coached interested Steamboat throwers after they wrap up work on their regular events.
“They ask every day if we are going to throw the javelin,” he said.
For all the Routt County athletes trying the new event, it’s an opportunity to get ahead of the curve.
And, of course, it’s a chance to have some fun.
“It’s the classic throw,” Brenner said. “It mimics the form you use to throw in both football and baseball. We probably even used the same throw once to hunt food.
“I doubt they used a discus.”
– To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail email@example.com
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