Sam Ekstrom – Staff Writer
Most people are familiar with long jump and shotput. Less known, though, is the javelin portion of the track and field throws docket.
Because Iowa high schools don’t participate in javelin, there are fewer throwers that toss the javelin here at Dordt. Fortunately, junior Brittany Carman comes from Mount Vernon Christian High School (Wash.) where she started throwing a javelin at age 14.
But the high school javelin is slightly different than the college javelin.
“You have to have a rubber tip on it,” said Carman, “because they don’t trust you with a metal tip.”
As a high schooler, Carman made State in the javelin. To reward her efforts, Carman’s father bought her a present.
“He was like, ‘If you make it to State, I’ll get you a javelin for your birthday,’” Carman said.
Carman’s birthday javelin – albeit a rubber-tipped spear – was given its own nook in the family’s foyer.
The now-20-year-old Carman was given a scholarship to throw at Dordt, and she is the only competitor on the women’s team who threw the javelin in high school. This isn’t uncommon for regional schools. Carman says that many of her opponents in the Greater Plains Athletic Conference appear to be newcomers to the sport as well.
“Some kids look behind them as they throw,” said Carman. “Some kids do a stutter step, criss-cross-apple-sauce kind of thing as they throw. It’s really entertaining to watch.”
Though some are inexperienced, the GPAC is still one of the premier conferences in the NAIA for throws. First-year throws coach Joe Snyder described the level of competition.
“If you look in the NAIA top-10 rankings for the throwing events, it’s not unusual for the GPAC to have five to six of those spots,” Snyder said.
Snyder is 22 years old and is just a couple of years removed from throwing javelin for Ashford University (Iowa).
At the men’s level, javelins are 8.5 feet long and weigh 28 ounces. For Carman, the “pointy sticks,” as she calls them, are 7.5 feet long and 21 ounces. For either gender, however, it’s all about technique.
“Contrary to popular belief, the javelin should not be thrown in the same way that a baseball is thrown,” said Snyder. “The motion should be more of an over-the-top motion to prevent injury.”
“It’s very technical,” said Carman. “If you have the entire technique down, you’ll throw far no matter the weight training you do.”
Listening to Carman talk technically about javelin may sound foreign to many novices. She throws out phrases like “grape vines,” “cross-overs” and instead of feet or yards, her “run-up” is measured in “javelin lengths.”
Not surprisingly, Snyder is impressed by Carman’s technical prowess.
“Brittany Carman is a good worker who pays a lot of attention to detail,” said Snyder.
In javelin, only a participant’s top throw is recorded. Carman has been very consistent, throwing around 120 feet on a regular basis.
Carman placed fifth at the Sioux City Relays on April 12 with a throw of over 123 feet, bettering the throw that earned her fifth place at the GPAC Championships last spring.
Snyder is intrigued to see what Carman can accomplish in the closing weeks of the outdoor track and field season.
“She’s only about five feet away from the national-qualifying provisional mark,” said Snyder, “and she’s been putting in a lot of work, so we’re excited to see some big things from her in the next few weeks.”