Maize senior Kameron Swenson paced near the Class 5A javelin area on Saturday at the state track and field meet. His brain didn’t even have to work overtime to imagine losing his lead in the javelin on the final throw.
A year ago, Swenson was leading the 6A competition when Free State’s Tye Carter threw a personal best to win.
On Saturday, Heights senior Creighton Sanders, the 5A defending champion, was the lone thrower remaining. He had just come from running the 110-meter hurdles, and without any warmups, launched a throw of 189-2.
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“I was freaking out,” Swenson said. “It was so stressful.”
But Swenson’s 190-1 held up, and Swenson’s dad, Eric, wrapped him up in a hug and cried.
“I turned to my father after Creighton Sanders’ throw and both of us knew what was coming,” Eric Swenson said. “Both of us were thinking, ‘Just don’t let it happen again this year.’
“Creighton Sanders is a great kid. They’ll be teammates next year (at Pittsburg State). My heart goes out to Creighton because he had a short draw having to hurry through his events. He would have thrown better if it wouldn’t have happened to him.
“But it was a huge moment of pride.”
The state track meet was postponed on Friday due to severe weather, so in order to get all the events in, only four throws were given to competitors. It sped up the events, but for Sanders, that meant rushing from hurdles to javelin.
The win wasn’t only redemption for Kameron Swenson for the 2015 state meet, but for his whole senior season.
He opened the year with a throw of more than 200 feet, but then his distances drastically dropped.
“Something changed in my approach. I do not know what. I thought it would fix itself, but it ended up not doing it,” he said. “… After every meet, I was thinking that I got lucky at the beginning of the year. I didn’t think I had it in me anymore.”
At the KU Relays in April, Swenson had a blood blister on his entire heel pad.
“It was two inches wide,” Eric Swenson said. “It was really gross when that happened. He tried not to plant as hard on his foot. It changed his throwing motion and he hurt his shoulder in the process.
“He went quickly from 200 feet to 170 feet, and 160 feet at regionals last week.”
Throwing the javelin is a Swenson family tradition. Both Eric Swenson and his wife, Dodie, threw at Fort Hays State. Their oldest daughter, Keiryn, was a two-time champ in javelin in Class 6A.
“I really waited for them to physically mature to start throwing,” Eric Swenson said. “If you start too early, it will hurt your arm. It’s not a natural motion. I waited until I saw they were strong enough to throw. For Kameron, it was eighth-grade year. Before that, he was so scrawny. He was a wrestler and weighed 120 pounds.”
Kameron’s progression was halted his sophomore year when he dislocated a rib and was out for most of the season. Yet he still came back in time for regionals, which he won, and then took fifth in 6A.
He was basically on track for continued upward progression after taking second in 2015 — until this season’s bump.
“He’s kind of a perfectionist,” Maize coach Jerrod Handy said. “He’s a lot like Keiryn was where he likes to think too much about his technique and sometimes overanalyzes things.”
In the days before state, Kameron focused solely on technique and miniscule aspects of his approach. He did his approach over and over again, analyzing it and perfecting it. He focused on his foot going forward, getting his hip through and his arm over the top.
In his first throw of the competition, he didn’t worry about putting power behind it.
“It was a technique throw,” he said. “Just to see if I could get something.”
He did, throwing 186-7.
“Right then I knew that I had it in me again,” Swenson said. “… On the second one, I just went for it.”
And he got his title.