EUGENE, Ore. –- Juan De La Garza doesn’t believe that Sam Humphreys is the future of U.S. javelin throwing.

“I think he is the best one right now,” the Texas A&M throws coach of 22 years said.

With his performance Saturday at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., Humphreys is making his coach’s case. The A&M senior won his first NCAA title with a throw of 77.95m (255-09) into a strong headwind.

Less than a year ago, also at Hayward Field on the Oregon campus, Humphreys also won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials with a throw of 81.86m (268-7).

“It was the biggest meet that I’ve ever been to, so I was really nervous,” the Laredo, Texas, native said. “I wasn’t thinking that I was going to win it. I just wanted to see how I would do, and I was shocked.”

Bittersweet, however, was the distance. Humphreys missed the A standard by a mere five inches, so despite winning the Olympic Trials he had to watch the Olympic Games from home. Instead, three throwers who finished lower at the Olympic Trials but had previously hit the A standard represented the United States in London.

“I’m superbly ecstatic,” Humphreys told the Associated Press after the Olympic Trials. “To be here in this position, although not going to the Olympics being short by 14 centimeters, is heartbreaking. But I’m on top of the world right now. I’m a little upset, but I have a lot more room for improvement. There is always the next four years to get that mark.”

“It didn’t really hit him until way after the fact,” De La Garza said, himself a former Texas A&M thrower who holds the Mexican javelin record. “But that’s the way it is. He still got first, just the system didn’t help us because it was 82 meters.”

Since then, the IAAF, track’s world governing body, has increased the A standard to 83.50m (273-11). Humphreys has inched closer to the A standard, throwing 81.90m (268-8) at the NCAA regional meet. On a good day, however, he believes he could hit the new standard.

“I feel like my technique is there,” he said. “I just need to find the right time to do it.”

The right time ideally would be at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which take place June 20-23 in Des Moines, Iowa. If he can hit the A standard there and finish in the top three, Humphreys would earn a spot in the IAAF World Championships this summer in Moscow.

If history is any indication, he will keep getting inching closer. Humphreys has been steadily improving since he first began throwing javelin at age 11 during a summer track program.

“I quit baseball and my parents wanted me to do something during the summer,” he said.

And why the throws?

“I always liked throwing things really far, so this was a chance to get in and test out who could throw farther,” he said.

As it turned out, that person was often Humphreys. After setting school records in shot put and discus at J.B. Alexander High School in Laredo, and also setting an AAU young men’s division javelin record, Humphreys moved along to Texas A&M.

Humphreys quit throwing the disc after his freshman season in College Station, but he set a school record in javelin and finished fifth at the NCAA championships that year. As a sophomore he moved up to third at NCAAs, and as a junior he was the runner-up.

Finally, at the Olympic Trials last summer, Humphreys began winning. He has been unbeatable after that. Humphries has had the best javelin mark in college track and field since his first outdoor meet in 2013, and with his throw at the regional meet, he now has the seventh best mark in collegiate history.

The culmination of his steady improvement, however, was his first and only NCAA title this week. Afterward he called it his biggest victory yet — even bigger than the Olympic Trials.

“Working four years to get it — getting fifth my freshman, third my sophomore and second my junior, and finally getting first, I’m so excited that I had it,” Humphreys said. “The hard work all paid off in the end.”