Thursday, May 27, 2010

BYU Throwers

Following is an article that appeared in Deseret News, Utah's daily newspaper. It is nice to see throwers being recognized.

BYU track and field: Cougars a strong-armed bunch
By Dick Harmon

Deseret News

Published: Thursday, May 27, 2010 12:43 a.m. MDT
PROVO — The javelin throw tears up an athlete's body like no other track event, as ligaments, muscles and tendons clash in an awkward, twisting stress mess on every throw, tosses that require tremendous speed within a few steps. It can wear a guy down and break him apart.

That's why BYU's Chris Reno took a couple of months off after the indoor season. He didn't throw at all until the Mountain West Conference championships in Albuquerque earlier this month. With a couple of throws, he won the league title. One of his throws sailed within 15 feet of the awards dais, where people turned and looked in horror with visions of impalement.

Reno is part of a unique group of BYU throwers who head for the NCAA West Preliminary this weekend in Austin, Texas. This may be the most talented group of Mormon athletes ever assembled for throwing events in a national track meet.

"What they've accomplished is remarkable, said BYU track coach Mark Robison. "They've been here a long time. They were here as freshmen; they went on missions, so they've known each other for a long time. They're very close, they've got great chemistry and they're hilarious when they get together."

Reno, packing a javelin at a recent practice, didn't hesitate rubbing it in as he met up with shot-putters Leif Arrhenius and Daniel Lawson, preparing for a photo shoot. "I'd rather be carrying a spear than a that big heavy ball," said Reno.

"I knew you'd say that," said Lawson.

"These guys have such incredible drive," said Robison. "And they'll all be back because they're juniors this year. Reno has two more years because he sat out a year.

"Since I've been here, this is the best throwing squad we've ever had," said Arrhenius, who is among the shot put and discus favorites this week. His older brother Nick won a national title in the discus three years ago. His father, Anders, was an All-American at BYU 30 years ago.

"All our throwers have improved this year," said Leif. "I think we scored 74 points in conference in just the throws. That by itself would have gotten third or fourth in the MWC meet. Having six throwers score that many points shows just how good we are."

Reno said BYU just got lucky, and the timing was just right.

"This is a talented group of kids," Reno said. "The Arrheniuses have been around for years, and then Sean (Richardson) came and then Oliver (Whaley) came. We're just fortunate to have all of us come at the same time. All of us have the right attitude to train hard, and it's paying off."

Arrhenius, an All-American both indoors and outdoors, credits friendship as a key.

"We're all pretty good buddies," he said. "We like being together and push one another. We are competitive people and not only do we want to beat each other, but beat our competitors from around the country. All the throwers are returned missionaries."

The NCAA Men's and Women's Outdoor Track and Field West Preliminary runs today through Saturday. The BYU men are ranked No. 11 in the nation, while the BYU women are No. 16.

The three-day event features the top 48 athletes and 24 relay teams in each event in the West region. The top 12 finishers in each event advance to the final NCAA championship meet at Eugene, Ore., June 9-12. The East Preliminary will be held this weekend in Greensboro, N.C.

Arrhenius is from Orem and prepped at Mountain View High, where he was a three-time state champion. He served a mission to Taiwan from 2005-07. In the West, Arrhenius ranks No. 5 in the shot put with a throw of 60 feet, 5 inches and No. 5 in the discus with a 195-10 effort, but has gone over 200 feet unofficially, and he ranks No. 13 in the hammer throw with a 205-11 effort.

Lawson ranks No. 7 in the shot put in the West. He is from Moses Lake, Wash., and served in the Mexico Chihuahua Mission from 2003-05.

A former prep All-American from Billings, Mont., Reno had the top high school javelin throw in the nation as a senior. He currently ranks No. 6 in the West with a throw of 240-8.

Richardson, from Silver City, N.M., is ranked No. 9 in the West in the javelin with a throw of 235-8. He served in the New York City South LDS Mission. Blaine Baker, whose javelin throw ranks No. 15 in the West (230-7), is from Missoula, Mont., and was a McDonald's All-American basketball player.

Whaley, from Kayenta, Ariz., is No. 2 in the West with a 202-8 hammer throw at the MWC championships. He served in the West Virginia Charleston Mission. In the pole vault, Chris Little, from Las Gatos, Calif., ranks No. 4 in the West with a jump of 17-9. He served in the Denmark Copenhagen Mission from 2005-07.

"At regionals, I'm not going in to try and win it," said Reno, who won the MWC javelin title with just three throws before sitting down. Tendinitis in his elbow kept him from throwing for a month and a half after the indoor season, and those throws were the first out of him in 90 days.

This week, he plans on doing the same thing — just post a number that will advance him.

This strategy is key because the NCAA has a weird setup this year. Preliminaries will be held in the West and East. The top 12 at the East Preliminary will advance, regardless of how they've done all year. A false start, a scratch or a tripped-over hurdle and a No. 1-ranked athlete could be out of the NCAA championships.

The West is everything west of the Mississippi — an enormous region. In Reno's javelin event, of the top 12 collegians in the nation, only one is in the East.

"That means a brutal West competition for the top 12 spots," said Robison.

This setup is part of a power play by the powerful SEC, ACC and Big East, all BCS conferences, whose voting power enabled them to set themselves up for more athletes at the national meet.

"I just want to post the best mark possible in the least amount of throws this week to qualify for nationals," Reno said. "Once there, I'll go for it and try and get a big throw."

Robison said BYU's throwers are unique.

"They're from small towns, scattered all over in Arizona, New Mexico and Montana," he said. "Reno wasn't bad in high school, Leif was one of the best to ever come out of high school, but the others were guys who were just kind of there.

"Richardson called me and asked if there was any way he could come to BYU. He'd thrown 204 or 205, and I agreed. Last summer, he went to Sweden and spent four weeks with some of the javelin throwers there, friends of Leif, Nick and Anders, and tried to learn some things. Now he's throwing 235," said Robison.

"I couldn't be more pleased with what they've done."

He believes six of his throwers will advance this week.

"There's not a one of these six I don't expect to make it to nationals. The thing that's crazy about this meet is there aren't any places, there are just qualifiers. If you qualify, you move to the next round. All we want to do is advance. Our three javelin throwers, if they throw 230, they should advance."

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com
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