Faced with an unusual request from one of his star athletes, Pittsburg State track and field coach Russ Jewett didn’t need to wait to give his answer.
If Mike Beeler wanted to sit out a year, Jewett trusted Beeler’s judgment. Nothing more.
“It is unusual, but it was a calculated gamble,” said Jewett, in his 23rd year as the men’s coach. “Mike just wanted to be the best thrower he could be … he just turned it into one really long, dedicated offseason is one way to look at it.”
After finishing second in the nation in javelin in 2010, Beeler, now a fifth-year senior, asked for a year off to develop his strength and redshirted in 2011.
“It was just remembering how close I came and what I needed to do become a champion,” said Beeler, a Lenexa native. “I was still able to compete unattached so it was easy to surround myself with that environment I needed … .and to throw and be in competition and remember what I was working toward.”
It’s a calculated gamble that’s paid off both for Beeler and the Gorillas – Pittsburg State won its first MIAA men’s title since 2005 on May 6 in Emporia and Beeler is the top-ranked javelin thrower in the nation at 235 feet, 8 inches headed into next week’s NCAA Division II Championships at Pueblo, Colo.
“The team title was important to all of us,” Beeler said. “It just seemed like we’d finished second so many times to (Central Missouri) … just to get over that hump felt great.”
Jewett was also named MIAA coach of the year for the sixth time after the Gorillas snapped Central Missouri’s six-year streak of titles.
“We’re not afraid to be measured by anyone’s standard of success,” Jewett said. “We just hope we don’t go another seven or eight years without a title.”
Beeler, who has won three MIAA titles, will go head-to-head with two-time national champion Nick Howe of California-San Diego at Pueblo – the same guy who beat Beeler two years ago.
“A lot of factors come into play … you can’t get caught up with what you’re ranked going in because I could have had better conditions to throw in than anybody else this year,” Beeler said. “And (Howe) is the champ, you have to respect that. I’m sure he doesn’t follow me or expect me to be back, but surprise, here I am.”
Beeler isn’t the only top-ranked Gorilla headed into nationals – Pittsburg native Keenan Soles is No. 1 in the long jump and broke a 25-year old MIAA record at the league meet, jumping 25-8 ¼ to break the longest-standing record in the league.
“That’s such a volatile event, so (Soles) is definitely capable of finishing in the top three,” Jewett said. “He’s had a great year, really been exciting to watch.”