EUGENE — Soon after the javelin left his hand, Sean Keller knew it was the best throw of his life.
“I wanted to PR, but I didn’t expect it to go that far,” Keller said, smiling, still in disbelief roughly 15 minutes after his third throw Saturday at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials.
Keller, who graduated from Heritage High School earlier this month, made it to Monday night’s finals with one of the best throws ever by an American in his age group. His mark of 253 feet beat his personal record by close to 9 feet. He finished fifth out of 25 javelin throwers in qualifying. The top 12 reached the finals, scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday.
Keller looked toward the 15 to 20 family and friends in the stands at Hayward Field and waited word on the mark. He raised his hands in celebration. He screamed. His father screamed.
“You didn’t hear me?” Michael Keller asked?
Sean Keller was in ninth place of his flight after two throws.
His first throw traveled 228-11. Keller was not impressed.
“It’s going to be a 220-day, maybe 230,” he thought.
The second attempt went 217 feet. Uh oh.
“I messed up,” he explained.
Then he figured it was time.
“Just knowing it was my last throw at the Olympic Trials for another four years,” Keller said of the motivation.
Well, not exactly. He earned another day of competition.
“I just let everything go and let the coaching do the work.”
“It felt like everything was perfect,” he said.
He needed a big throw to make it to the finals, too. It turned out, 235-2 was good enough for 12th place, with 234-11 in 13th.
Michael Keller knew from just the technique used by his son that it was going to be a special throw. From his vantage point behind the javelin throwers, he could not tell how far it would travel.
“Then we heard the crowd,” Michael said.
The oooohhhhh of Hayward Field.
Keller said he was nervous going into the meet and also noticed he was the smallest athlete in the event. His father gave him some good advice, reminding Sean that none of those guys threw as far as Sean does now when they were his age.
It helped Sean relax, and he tried to enjoy the moment, the environment at Track Town USA.
“It’s something else. It’s a whole different kind of a meet,” Keller said. “This is amazing.”
A USA Track and Field official said the USATF does not recognize high school records. Keller’s throw was close to the USA Junior record set by Sam Crouser of Gresham, who went 255-4 in 2010.
Keller will get a shot at that record in the finals of this event Monday.
Timothy Glover qualified first Saturday with a throw of 263-4. Sam Humphreys is second at 256-3, and Barry Krammes is third at 254-4. All marks are reset for Monday’s competition.
While Keller is among the leaders, he is not necessarily close to making it to the Olympics this summer. Javelin throwers must reach the ‘A’ standard of 269 feet to qualify for the London Games.
If Keller finishes in the top three Monday and hits that standard, well, even those in Vancouver really will hear the Keller family screaming from Eugene.