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Bremerton javelin throwers learn it takes ballet, not brawn
People may not catch their dinner or vanquish a foe with spears anymore, but some high school students make it a part of their everyday lives.
The javelin throw, mainstay of track and field, harkens back to the earliest organized sports competition in the western world. Originally used for hunting and warfare, it is a prehistoric skill developed by foot soldiers and those looking for a meal.
Now, the two-and-a-half meter long spears are more commonly used by athletes, some at the prep level, who best their opponents by chucking the javelin the farthest.
What newcomers to the sport learn first is that it doesn’t necessarily require the beefiest of men or women, but rather the most sound technique.
“The best ones have the coordination of a ballerina,” said Central Kitsap High School track and field coach Mark Ward. “It’s all in the speed and technique that goes into the motion of throwing it.”
Ward, who began his 19th season with the Cougars this week, said it was one of his favorite events to watch.
“It’s beautiful to watch,” he said.
Central Kitsap, Crosspoint Academy, Klahowya Secondary School, Bremerton and Olympic high schools all participate in the javelin throw. Although the technique is the same, the spears at the high school level have rubber tips. At the college and international level they have sharp metal tips.
“Forget everything you’ve ever known about throwing something,” Ward said, pointing out baseball players as an example of how newcomers have to adjust to a new throwing motion. When throwing a javelin, arm strength alone isn’t enough. “The javelin throwers, you watch them, and if they’ve come from baseball with a great arm, they try doing the same with javelin and usually end up hitting themselves in the head instead of throwing it far. They try to muscle it.”
The amount of time to learn javelin and make appropriate adjustments varies according to the person and coach, Ward said, and isn’t much different than other track throwing events, the shot put and discus.
A student’s first interaction with the javelin usually comes at the junior high level, where fundamentals are the first lesson.
Makiah McInnis, a sophomore javelin and discus thrower for Olympic High School, started track and field in the seventh grade at Ridgetop Junior High School. He said Monday that perfecting the javelin requires a combination of speed, strength and mental toughness.
“It’s a momentum shift,” he added. “And if your opponent is throwing far, you don’t want to psych yourself out. You get a few chances at a meet, so if you have a bad throw, you just move onto the next one.”
Kyle Kennedy, a Bremerton High School senior, competed in the javelin throw at last year’s state tournament and returns to the Knights this season with his sights set on a title. He believes the javelin is the most difficult of the throwing events because of the work that goes into mastering the technique.
The Bremerton football and track standout described throwing a javelin as a series of movements within the body.
“It’s a wave of energy from planting to release,” he said. “It all comes from your hips.”
The ability to throw is highly dependent on the hips and toes, said Bob McInnis, Olympic’s throwing coach and Makiah McInnis’ father. Bob McInnis is in his first season with the Trojans after volunteering at Ridgetop’s track program for the past four years. He’s also a former Bremerton football star, discus and shot put thrower from 1978. He teaches his athletes that success has little to do with size.
“A lot of people think that because they’re not big, they can’t throw, but that’s not true,” he said. “You don’t need to be super strong or a big person, because once you get all of the fundamentals down, that’s all you’ll ever need.”
One aspect of learning the javelin is competing in a safe manner. For a sport that requires finesse more than anything, the dangers of tossing a spear still remain at collegiate and international meets.
However, Washington state high school athletes use rubber tips on the javelin to prevent serious injuries in case of an errant throw. Washington is one of 13 states that allow javelin competitions at the prep level.
Central Kitsap’s Ward believes student-athletes can be taught the intricacies of javelin without the sharp end of the spear, but he added that the sport isn’t the same with a piece of rubber covering the top.
“We ruined the javelin when we put the rubber tip on it,” he said. “I know it’s for safety, but kids are taught to stay out of the way, while coaches and officials are taught to keep their eyes open. I know it’s still a great event, but it’s different now.”
Back on track: looking ahead to the track and field season
Central Kitsap Cougars
Coach: Mark Ward, 19th season
Last year: The boys placed 10th at state and seventh in the league, while the girls finished fifth in the league.
Top returners: Boys—Kevin Lacanlale, senior, sprints; Tyler Kahl, senior, sprints; Chris Steele, senior, sprints; Zack Weber, senior, mid-distance; Michael Thorsen, junior, distance; Zach Duarte, junior, hurdles; Nick Fasano, junior, throws; Bryce Henderson, junior, throws; Jeff Cox, senior, throws; Shaq Blair, senior, throws and sprints. Girls—Ashley Weathers, senior, sprints; Alanna Flynn, senior, sprints; Shelby Johnson, senior, pole vault and throws; Gee Mi Jorde, senior, distance.
Top newcomers: Boys—Michael Thomas, sophomore, sprints; Jake Brouker, senior, throws; Greg Cleveland, sophomore, sprints; Joel Eklof, junior, throws; Zach Knudson, sophomore, throws and jumps; Drew Guertin, sophomore, distance; Jon Kunkel, sophomore, distance. Girls—Jessica Sanchez, sophomore, mid-distance; Michaela Rubenstein, sophomore, hurdles; Jasmine Leaptrot, sophomore, sprints; Asha Hill, senior, jumps; Kalene Gillespie, sophomore, hurdles; Moranda Roberts, sophomore, jumps.
Outlook: The Cougars had a high turnout this year, with numbers in the high 80s, Ward said this week. The boys squad has a mix of seniors and underclassmen; The girls hope to improve their record this year.
Coach: Jeremy Blum, first season
Last year: The boys placed sixth at the league meet and the girls were seventh.
Top returners: Boys—Kyle Kennedy, senior, javelin and shot put; David Pierce, senior, hurdlers; Damasha Aldridge, senior, relays and long jump; Hoang Quan, senior, javelin, shot put and discus; Patrick McConnell, senior, 400; Gipson Devon, sophomore, shot put and discus. Girls—Briana Holladay, sophomore, relays; Charlese Gaines, junior, relays; Rebecca Frei, sophomore, 800 and 1,600. Top newcomers: Boys—Terance Jordan, senior, long jump; Shaquille Jones, sophomore, high jump. Girls—Alison Johnson, freshman, 1,600 and 3,200.
Outlook: Blum takes over the program following the departure of longtime coach Lloyd Pugh. Kennedy, entering his fourth season, hopes to break through and finally win a state title in the javelin this season.
Coach: David Rastovski, second season
Last year: The boys team finished last in the league, while the girls placed sixth.
Top returners: Boys—Jacob Blattman, senior, long jump and high jump; Josh Ross, senior, long jump, triple jump and pole vault; Caleb Miller, junior, shot put and discus; Jacob Neubert, senior, 800 and 1,660; Alex Newhard, senior, 400 and relays; Alex Vaughn, junior, shot put and discus. Girls—Rebecca Lindgren, senior, 100, 200, 400 and relays; Emily Kreifels, senior, 1,600 and 3,200; Rachel Lindgren, junior, 1,600 and 3,200; Cassandra Dick, senior, javelin; Kawai Pakele, junior, hurdles and pole vault. Top newcomers: Boys—Latrel Simpson, freshman, jumps; Jonathan Harris, freshman, shot put, discus. Girls—Nicole Compton, freshman, shot put and discus.
Outlook: Klahowya will field a deep team this year that hopes to make improvements from last year. Both teams have enough distance participants to compete well in the league, which will be competitive this season.
Coach: Greg Chapman, 15th season
Last year: The boys placed second in the league and the girls finished sixth.
Top returners: Boys—Aljohn Gaviola, senior, 100, 200 and hurdles; Riley Enriquez, senior, hurdles and 200; Hunter Keffer, junior, 100, 200 and high jump; Matthew Lutz, junior, 1,600 and 3,200; Daniel Scott, junior, 110 hurdles and pole vault; Corum Szathmary, senior, 400, long jump and triple jump; James Galam, senior, 100 and 200. Girls—Melia Lagat, junior, 800 and 1,600; Jocelyn Pease, senior, 1,600 and 3,200. Top newcomers: Boys—Craig Boekenoogen, sophomore, 1,600 and 3,200; Zach Coulson, sophomore, 1,600 and 3,200; Ian Goldizen, junior, 1,600 and 3,200; Randy Grier, sophomore, 100 and 200; Trey Fullilove, junior, 100 and 200. Girls—Lindsay Holcomb, junior, 1,600 and 3,200; Ashli Payne, sophomore, hurdles.
Outlook: The Trojans have 23 girls on the roster, the most in a few years, Chapman said Tuesday. He predicts Olympic will be in the middle of the Olympic League pack with 45 athletes on the boys roster. The longtime coach also said expectations are high for Gaviola, a two-time defending league champion.
Coach: Robert Evans, second season
Last year: The boys team placed 10th at state, while the girls finished 15th. Grace Garguile won a state title in the 100-meter.
Top returners: Boys—Josh Thompson, senior, hurdles; Logan Stafford, sophomore, hurdles; Jordan Cooper, senior, javelin and sprints; Russel Melin, sophomore, distance; Mikal Pattee, sophomore, distance; Shawn O’Brian, junior, discus; Justin Holland, junior, javelin; Kelvin Mason, senior, pole vault. Girls—Grace Garguile, sophomore, sprints; Leanda Shdo, senior, javelin and distance; Kylie Esselstrom, junior, hurdles.
Top newcomers: Boys—Josh Barton, freshman, distance; Chris Kelly, freshman, hurdles. Girls—Jordan Barton, junior, sprints; Claire Lovely, freshman, sprints.
Outlook: The program lost nearly half of last year’s roster due to graduation and transfers. The girls squad lost nine. While Crosspoint’s numbers don’t match up with last year’s turnout, Evans said last week he’s still confident the program will have a good showing in the Sea-Tac league this season, with a legitimate shot at reaching state.