Four Nebraska javelin throwers headed to Nationals

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Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 10:51 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Javelin is Nebraska track and field’s secret weapon. The Huskers qualified four javelin throwers for nationals: Arthur Petersen, Dash Sirmon, Maddie Harris, and Rhema Otabor, the most of any school in the country. With javelin not being one of the most commonly practiced, or even known field events, it often means the path that leads athletes is unique.

“My dad himself, he threw javelin and he’s actually the national record holder back home in Denmark,” said Petersen. “He kinda got me started when I was 14 years old.”

“Freshman year of high school I started off in the jumps and sprints,” said Sirmon. “Kinda had a little injury to my hamstring, so I decided to pick up jav and from there it really just took off.”

“My high school coach at the time was like ‘Rhema I know you throw softball. Your brother is kinda a javelin thrower, so something got to be working in there, right? And so he kinda got me to pick up the javelin and throw it to see if there was any hope,” said Otabor. “I didn’t see anything that was worth working on, but I guess he saw it. And he was like ‘okay, we’ll work on it.’”

“I thought I was going to play softball. So yeah it’s kinda crazy just to see how your journey changes,” said Harris. “And now we’re here and this is my thing now.”

Despite their varying years of formal training, the Huskers’ javelin squad has risen to the top, in large part thanks to friendly competition amongst teammates. This couldn’t be more true for Petersen and Sirmon who have finished first and second, respectively at Big Ten Championships and NCAA West Preliminaries this year.

“Having a teammate that knows his stuff, has been around the event for a really long time,” said Sirmon. “Being able to push and chase him very practice every meet, it’s really a special deal we have.”

“He has some stuff that I’m not very good at. I have some stuff that I’m very good at that he can learn from,” said Petersen.

The javelin throwers haven’t been the only ones thriving this season for Nebraska track and field. As of May 30th, both the men’s and women’s teams are ranked in the top ten in the country for the first time in program history, with the men coming in at No. 6 and the women at No. 9.

“We all knew that we were going to be something special in August,” said Harris. “So it’s really awesome that now people are seeing that we are something special and we are something to be messed with.”

“Wherever we can succeed that’s where we’re really going to put our energy and succeed in those areas,” said Huskers track and field head coach Justin St. Clair. “If it’s the throws, great. If it’s the jumps, the distance-- for me it’s about how can we be the best program in the country.”

The Huskers are sending 20 athletes to NCAA Nationals in Austin, TX. It’s the most athletes the program has sent since 2014. The men’s javelin final is Wednesday, June 7th at 5:30 p.m. The women’s javelin final is Thursday, June 8th, 6:45 p.m.