Ex Jayhawk, Current Kansas Student-Athlete Dominate Javelin At Kansas Relays

April 22, 2011

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Sure Scott Russell is a former NCAA javelin champion, but that was back in 2002. Sure he holds the Kansas Relays record, but he set that back in 2008. And yes, he finished 10th in the Olympics javelin throw, but that was back in 2008. The Canadian national record thrower has been injured and out of competition for two years.

For the past two years he has been a middle school teacher in Baldwin, Kan. teaching health and physical education to young teenagers, and occasionally training while rehabilitating numerous injuries to his 32-year old body.

None of that held back the former Kansas All-American javelin thrower as he wowed a Kansas Relays crowd with his high-arching, far-reaching throws, which included a victory and a new Kansas Relays record Friday night.

Russell, who graduated from KU in 2002, brought out his old Jayhawk jersey – an old light blue and pink top, which he last wore as a junior in college – and turned the javelin throw into a show. In the preliminary round of the competition Russell launched a throw of 268 feet and 11 inches to best his old meet record of 267-06 set in 2008.

But while Russell has had minimal physical training the past two years due to a battered body, he has continued to train his mind. He admitted to watching a lot of video of javelin throws and thinking about his sport.

He practiced Tuesday and registered some throws around the 74 or 75-meter mark, which converts to 242 to 246 feet. He felt that would be pretty good if he could duplicate those numbers in competition Friday night.

Instead, he made magic with a record-breaking throw, which surpassed 81.96 meters or 268-11. That distance was enough to out-pace the runner-up, Kansas freshman Johann Swanepoel who registered a toss of 241-06. Tyler Drake, a senior at Pittsburg State was third at 227-08 in the 20-man field.

The distance was also enough to get Russell thinking about training for the next Olympics. It is either that or hope he gets the assistant track coaching position he applied for in Baldwin.

“This was just see how I do,” Russell said. “Now I think I have to train for London (2012 Olympics) if I can do this… I shouldn’t have thrown this far with as little as I have trained.”

And while Russell is the star of Kansas javelin past, Swanepoel showed he might be the future of the event. The South Africa native, who graduated from Shawnee Mission South High School in Shawnee Mission, Kan., was impressive with his season-best toss.

In high school Swanepoel set the Kansas prep record with a throw of 238-04. As a freshman in college this year, he has posted three top-three finishes and owned a previous best collegiate throw of 238-04 at the Texas Relays. He topped that Friday with his 241-06 mark.

“My first throw was around 215,” Swanepoel said. “I usually get better throughout the series. My second throw was 236 so I felt pretty good after that. I just had some breakdowns in my technique. I am put all my energy into it and I am pretty happy with the outcome.”

While he is a Jayhawk freshman, it is not his first Kansas Relays appearance. In fact, Swanepoel won the high school version of the javelin in both 2008 and 2010 with identical throws of 205-05.

“I just want to keep throwing PRs (personal bests) and getting better all the time,” Swanepoel said. “I don’t set a big goal because if I don’t get it than I am going to feel depressed. I just want to keep getting better and at the end of the year, hopefully, it will work out for me.”