EUGENE — U.S. Olympic coaches went out of their way Monday to introduce themselves to Sean Keller.
No, he will not be an Olympian this summer, but Keller made quite a name for himself in the past few days at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials.
Keller, who graduated from Heritage High School earlier this month, finished eighth at the trials, capping a wild two-day javelin event.
On Saturday, Keller advanced to the 12-man final field with a personal record throw of 253 feet. On Monday, his first throw went 246 feet, 5 inches, reaching the final eight. He did not top that effort, but he met his expectations for the day.
“I snuck in to eighth place,” he said, failing to hide a smile in the media center at Hayward Field.
“I was feeling pretty good that I was going to pop another (long) one. It didn’t happen,” he said. “But getting eighth place is pretty amazing.”
The two best throws of his life came at Track Town USA.
Keller, representing the Evergreen Storm Track Club, acknowledged that he might have impressed some of the older, stronger, and bigger athletes in the field.
“I know what I can do, and they know what I can do now,” Keller said. “It’s fun going up against high-quality competition. It gets you going. It feels pretty good.”
In the daily program on sale at the trials, Keller was described as a “high school sensation” and one of the throwers to keep an eye on Monday.
Keller called the experience “cool,” adding that competing as a teenager in the Olympic trials is a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
But it will not be the only time he competes at the trials. He said 2016 is already on his radar.
He will travel like an Olympian this year.
In July, he is going to Spain for the Junior Worlds. In August, he has a meet in Finland. He is two feet off of the American Junior record, and he said that is his target this summer.
“I’m going for it,” he said. “My arm’s not tired yet.”
Keller was the first athlete to throw in Monday’s final. That’s when he hit 246-5. Keller was in fifth position by the end of that first round. He did not improve on his next two throws, while three others did, dropping Keller to eighth.
No problem. Just getting three more throws — as part of the final eight — met his personal goal for the event.
Sam Humphreys of Texas A&M won the event at 268-7. However, he has not met the Olympic standard as of yet, falling five inches short. Craig Kinsley, third place, Sean Furey, fourth, and Cyrus Hostetler, fifth, are the only three to hit the standard during the qualifying calendar and could be going to London to represent the United States.
Keller said he knows one day he will be able to make the standard.
“It’s in the back of my head,” he said of 269 feet. “It’s there. A lot of people say I can do it. It’s not impossible.”
Coaches from the U.S. team believe, too. Some told Keller they were “going crazy” when he was throwing.
Perhaps they got a glimpse of the future at present-day Hayward Field.