April 2, 2010
During the indoor track season, the Dempsey is the place to be. A hub of activity around the purple-colored track, with a couple jump runways and pole vault pits active simultaneously plus weights being thrown and shots being put side by side on the south end. But it can also be a lonely place when you're a javelin thrower with nothing but time on your hands.
Javelin and discus specialists are the two groups of athletes that get left out in the cold during the indoor season, and Washington returns two of the best javelin throwers in the NCAA in Kyle Nielsen and Brooke Pighin. This weekend, the returning All-Americans who both hail from Canada, will finally get to see their first competition in months, as they open up at the Texas Relays.
"It's always good seeing the rest of the team compete indoors, and it's great to cheer everybody on, but deep down inside as a javelin thrower you're like, `when is it going to be my turn?' says Nielsen. "I think all of us are pretty pumped that we finally get to show what we've got."
Last season, Nielsen and Pighin both had quite a bit. As sophomores, Nielsen took sixth at the NCAA Championships in Fayetteville while Pighin placed seventh in her first season as a Husky after transferring from Fresno State. Nielsen then went on to win the Canadian National Championship while Pighin was second on the women's side.
"It's the hard work that we do in the offseason that builds up the anticipation and the anxiety leading into the season at the start," said Pighin. "Kyle, Joe (Zimmerman), and I are starting a little bit later than everyone else, only a week or two, but still we're on the edge of our seats waiting to throw."
Zimmerman is the latest addition to assistant coach Reedus Thurmond's javelin unit, which is becoming one of the biggest strengths on entire Husky track team. A freshman from Spokane, Zimmerman won the Washington state 4A title last year, and will compete for the first time in Austin this weekend.
Pighin and Nielsen have been linked since their high school days. Nielsen's father, Tom, coached both athletes prior to Washington in their native British Columbia. Nielsen resided in Langley with Pighin hailing from Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. A chance to train with Nielsen again definitely factored into Pighin's decision to become a Husky.
"We know each other's throws pretty well, and it's nice when we travel in a small group to have an extra eye watching because we know each other's faults and each other's strengths so we can help each other," Nielsen says. "Then over the offseason when we're still in Canada we're still focusing on the same type of stuff and we know what we've been working on prior to the summer."
While the NCAA season is just two and a half months, stretching from April to mid-June, both Nielsen and Pighin will compete throughout the summer, and both are hoping to make the Canadian team that will compete at the 2010 Commonwealth Games held in October in India. But for the moment, competing for an NCAA title is at the top of the list.
"I think we're both kind of looking for an NCAA title here. We've got two more years to do it so it would be nice to get two of them each," says Pighin. "It's another long season for us but NCAAs is our focus right now, how we're going to get to that line, and how we're going to be in peak performance shape."
Whereas the training during the fall and winter consists of building up strength and raising a base-level, now that the season is beginning, Nielsen and Pighin refine their workouts. They'll be lifting lighter weights and concentrating more on increasing speed and maintaining their levels through the spring and summer.
Pighin appreciates the consistency she gains from being close to him and working year-round with Nielsen.
"We're here year-round together so it's not like we're going from one person and then switching people when we go back home. Working with Kyle's dad is a definite perk of it, we get to see him every once in a while and keep things in line," Pighin says.
Both of them are more concerned with their own performances right now, and throwing specific distances, than hoping for a certain place at a specific meet. Nielsen's best is 72.90-meters, or 239-feet, 2-inches, which ranks him third in school history. Pighin is second on the UW all-time list with her best of 51.48-meters (168-11). Nielsen needs about ten more feet to pass Darryl Roberson's 1989 school record, while Pighin is just five-feet shy of Megan Spriesterbach's mark from 2004.
"I like to set high goals," Nielsen says. "The higher they are the harder I work I think. This year's goal is 80-meters, last year it was to be a 70-meter thrower. I'm trying to work in steps like that. So hopefully some things fall in place."
The B.C. duo will finally get to see some return on their months of hard work this weekend, and soon will have their teammates returning the favor from the indoor season, and cheering them on to victory.