The Javelin--A Proud Tradition at Boise State

Three-time WAC javelin Champion Pontus Thomee's #2 finish at the NCAA National Championships was but the latest feat for Boise State, the top javelin school in the nation over the last nine years.

The rise to national prominence in collegiate track and field consists of many facets.  There are the sprints, the hurdles, the middle distance runs, the long distance races, the jumps, the throws and the multi-events.   

Boise State has enjoyed sporadic success in all five areas during its history and has excelled in field events over the past decade.  The Broncos now compete at the highest level in the men's javelin and it is that event that we focus on for this article.  

Watching a well-thrown javelin is a thing of beauty.  From the moment it leaves the hand, it flies through the air, seemingly forever.  Today's top javelin throwers are approaching the distance of a football field with their tosses.  To succeed, an athlete must excel at all four steps of the javelin throw—the approach, the wind-up, the throw and the follow-through.  

The casual fan or the Bronco fan that follows only football may not know it, but Boise State is well recognized as a force on the national scene in the javelin.  Bronco student-athletes have won two national championships, have recorded two #2 finishes, a third-place finish and a fifth-place and have won nine All-America honors and eight conference championships in the past nine years.   

You cannot talk about the great tradition of throwing the spear at Boise State without mentioning Dan Sheets, the school's first conference champion in the javelin. Sheets won the Big Sky title in both 1987 (with a throw of 225 feet) and 1989 (219-7.75).   

It would be 15 years before another Bronco could match Sheet's feat.  Little did anyone know that in 2002, Boise State would begin its march up the ladder of NCAA respectability in the event.  But the Broncos' prowess in the event and subsequent reputation slowly began to grow.  

Senior Justin St. Clair and junior Rob Minnitti raised the bar for future Bronco javelin throwers that year.  St. Clair heaved the spear 229-6 to place eighth at the NCAA Track and Field Championships and earn All-America status.  Minnitti finished 11th with a throw of 226-2 and he too was recognized on the All-America team.  St. Clair went on to win the United States National Outdoor Championship in 2007 with a throw of 245-1.

With St. Clair gone in 2003, it was up to Minnitti to continue Boise State's momentum in the event and boy did he!  Minnitti won the first of an incredible eight consecutive Western Athletic Conference champion javelin throwers for Boise State .  He shattered St. Clair's record when he recorded 252-4 to win the WAC title.  When it came his turn to toss the javelin at the national championships, Minnitti let it fly and the spear did not come down until it had traveled 246-feet, three-inches.  Heads were beginning to turn at the annual event.  Everyone was aware of the school's football team by this time but they excel at the javelin too?  

Minnitti captured second place in the nation with that throw.  But teammate Gabe Wallin brought the event to new heights in Boise .  Gabe continued the run of WAC champions with a throw of 229-7 in 2004 and a toss of 241-5 in 2005.  At the NCAA's, Wallin stepped up and uncorked a throw of 264-9 to win the national championship.  That throw not only beat the 2003 champion's throw by eight feet but upped Minnitti's school record by 12 feet.  You can view Wallin's 2004 National Championship throw here.  

Wallin repeated his NCAA Championship in 2005 with a throw of 258-5 to become the only two-time national champion in any sport at Boise State .  He was also helping a young thrower by the name of Keron Francis to learn the trade.  Francis finished sixth behind Wallin in 2004 and in '06, won the WAC with a throw of 238-10, the NCAA Western Regional (236-0) and finished third in the country at the National Championships with a toss of 237-7.   

Scott Viafore won the WAC in 2007 with a throw of 215 feet.  He competed in the NCAA Championships but finished 13th.  Viafore competed in the West Regionals in 2005, 2006 and 2007 and also qualified for the Nationals in '06.

So after being enlightened of Boise State's javelin tradition, it should come as no surprise that Pontus Thomee is but the latest in a long line of great Bronco javelin throwers.  Thomee won the WAC in 2008 (210-8), 2009 (230-9) and again this year with a throw of 230-1.  In the process, Pontus became the first three-time conference javelin champion at Boise State .  He finished second at the NCAA Regionals in 2009 with a throw of 239-3 and was the Regional champion this year (236-5).   

Thomee's throw of 233-5 won him All-America honors and fifth place in 2009.  Thomee's performance ended a two-year drought in the event as 2007 and 2008 are the only two years since 2002 that a Bronco javelin thrower did not place at least eighth in the nation.  This year, he joined Minnitti, Wallin and Francis as two-time Boise State All-Americans in the javelin when he recorded a personal best of 241-5 to finish second in the nation.  

Boise State is the undisputed king of javelin in the nation since 2002.  In those nine years, Boise State has two national championships (both Wallin), two seconds (Minnitti and Thomee), a third-place (Francis), a #5 (Thomee ) a sixth-place (Francis) and two eighth-place finishes (St. Clair and Thomee).  That is an incredible nine Broncos in the top eight in the last nine years.

Georgia, Oregon and UTEP are the only schools that come close to matching Boise State's javelin success.  Georgia has two national championships (Chris Hill in 2008 and 2009) along with one second-place and two sixth-place finishes.  Oregon has had two fourth-places and two seven-place finishes while UTEP's javelin throwers have captured two fifth-place finishes, a seventh and an eighth in the last nine years.  Noth Carolina's Justin Ryncavage won consecutive national championships in 2006 and 2007 but the only other Tar Heel to place in the last nine years was Adam Montague, who finished second to Ryncavage in 2007.  Washington has done well in recent years with a third, a fourth and a sixth-place finish.

Eetu Viitala appears to be the next in line in the revolving door of All-America javelin throwers in Broncoland.  The sophomore finished fifth this year (193-10) and will battle Louisiana Tech strongman Larry Jones next year with that streak of nine consecutive javelin titles for Boise State to carry him.  While the talented Kurt Felix did not compete in the javelin at the WAC Championships, his throw of 206-8 in the NCAA decathlon championship is better than all returning throwers.  Freshman Alex Cartwright did not participate in the WAC Championships either but he is on record with a throw of 202 feet in high school.   

And when you add Coach J.W. Hardy's national respect and reputation as a track coach with Boise State's national reputation in the event, you can bet that the Broncos will reel in another soon-to-be national star in the javelin when Hardy's recruiting class is announced.  

Stay tuned.

 

These are the National Champions in javelin over the last nine years:

2002 Scott Russell, Kansas 79.85 (262-0)
2003 Brian Chaput, Pennsylvania 258-2
2004 Gabriel Wallin, Boise St. 80.71 (264-9)
2005 Gabriel Wallin, Boise St. 78.76 (258-5)
2006 Justin Ryncavage, North Carolina 74.18 (243-4)
2007 Justin Ryncavage, North Carolina 73.58 (241-5)
2008 Chris Hill, Georgia 78.41 (257-3)
2009 Chris Hill, Georgia 81.80 (268-4)
2010 Craig Kinsley, Brown 76.29 (250-3)

 

The NCAA National Track and Field Championships javelin results by year--

 

2002:

1. Scott Russell, Kansas, 79.85 (262-0);

2. Nathan Junius, Texas, 74.61 (244-9);

3. Bill Neumann, Iowa, 74.57 (244-8);

4. Artur Wszelaki, Nebraska, 74.17 (243-4);

5. Janne Sakko, UTEP, 73.82 (242-2);

6. Ron White, Eastern Ill., 73.20 (240-2);

7. John Welch, Virginia, 71.46 (234-5);

8. Justin St. Clair, Boise St., 69.95 (229-6).

 

2003:

1. Brian Chaput, Pennsylvania, 78.69 (258-2);

2. Rob Minnitti, Boise St., 75.07 (246-3);

3. Bill Neumann, Iowa, 74.27 (243-8);

4. John Stiegeler, Oregon, 73.58 (241-5);

5. Luke Marrs, Texas A&M, 71.38 (234-2);

6. Trevor Snyder, Georgia, 71.23 (233-8);

7. Paul Pisano, Connecticut, 70.57 (231-6);

8. Janne Sakko, UTEP, 70.41 (231-0).

 

2004:

1 Gabriel Wallin JR Boise State 77.62mq 254-08 71.13m 77.62m PASS

2 Leigh Smith SR Tennessee 76.52mq 251-00 71.92m 76.52m PASS

3 Brian Chaput SR Pennsylvania 74.86mq 245-07 74.86m PASS PASS

4 Adam Burke SR Army 72.03mq 236-04 67.19m 66.61m 72.03m

5 Tom Engwall SR Texas 71.82mq 235-07 63.20m 63.82m 71.82m

6 Keron Francis JR Boise State 71.24mq 233-09 71.24m 69.10m FOUL

7 Doug Lefler SR Long Beach State 70.97mq 232-10 70.97m 68.35m FOUL

8 Curt Borland SR Washington State 70.44mq 231-01 70.44m FOUL FOUL

 

2005:

1. Gabriel Wallin, Boise St., 78.76 (258-5);

2. Trevor Snyder, Georgia, 76.03 (249-5);

3. Sean Furey, Dartmouth, 73.83 (242-3);

4. Eric Brown, Arkansas, 70.77 (232-2);

5. Bobby Smith, Monmouth, 69.99(229-7);

6. Chris Carter, Southeastern La., 69.97 (229-7);

7. Paul Teinert, California, 69.53 (228-1);

8. Dane Brubaker, Montana, 66.97 (219-9).

 

2006:

1. Justin Ryncavage, North Carolina, 74.18 (243-4);

2. Eric Brown, Arkansas, 72.63 (238-3);

3. Keron Francis, Boise St., 72.38 (237-6);

4. Lars Larsen, Southeastern La., 71.97 (236-1);

5. Paul Teinert, California, 71.93 (236-0);

6. Martin Maric, Georgia, 69.56 (228-2);

7. Thomas Jordan, Coastal Caro., 69.49 (228-0);

8. Anthony Bonura, Pittsburgh, 68.12 (223-6).

 

2007:

1. Justin Ryncavage, North Carolina, 73.58 (241-5);

2. Adam Montague, North Carolina, 71.96 (236-1);

3. Aris Borjas, Cal Poly, 71.44 (234-4);

4. Cody Fillinich, Northwestern St., 70.24 (230-5);

5. Chris Hill, McNeese St., 69.90 (229-4);

6. Chad Radgowski, LSU, 68.85 (225-11);

7. Ryan Brandel, Oregon, 68.85 (225-11);

8. Marc Pallozzi, Albany (N.Y.), 68.40 (224-5). 

 

2008:

1. Chris Hill, Georgia, 78.41 (257-3);

2. Corey White, Southern California, 77.79 (255-2);

3. Adam Montague, Florida, 74.62 (244-10);

4. Preston Chatham, LSU, 71.51 (234-7);

5. Alex VanderMerwe, UTEP, 70.60 (231-7);

6. Jeffrey Kent, La.-Monroe, 68.74 (225-6);

7. Alex Wolff, Oregon, 67.09 (220-1);

8. John Austin, Duke, 66.10 (216-10).

 

2009:

1. Chris Hill, Georgia, 81.80 (268-4);

2. Corey White, Southern California, 75.72 (248-5);

3. Craig Kinsley, Brown, 73.31 (240-6);

4. Cyrus Hostetler, Oregon, 72.71 (238-6);

5. Pontus Thomee, Boise St., 71.14 (233-5);

6. Kyle Nielsen, Washington, 70.56 (231-6);

7. Alex VanderMerwe, UTEP, 70.52 (231-4);

8. Cody Fillinich, Northwestern St., 68.61 (225-1).

 

2010:

1. Craig Kinsley, Brown, 76.29 (250-3);

2. Pontus Thomee, Boise St., 73.60 (241-6);

3. Kyle Nielsen, Washington, 73.60 (241-6);

4. Joe Zimmerman, Washington, 71.19 (233-7);

5. Sam Humphreys, Texas A&M, 70.32 (230-8);

6. Sam Vidrine, McNeese St., 69.99 (229-7);

7. Adam Wolkins, Nebraska, 69.64 (228-6);

8. Colin Moleton, Mississippi, 69.32 (227-5).

 


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