Rutgers-Camden's VanLiew stuns field to take javelin crown
LA CROSSE, Wis. — When Tim VanLiew winds up, whatever he throws goes a long way.
VanLiew, a Rutgers-Camden senior, hurled his way to a second consecutive national title Saturday, winning the men’s javelin event at the 2013 NCAA Division III Men’s Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
“Winning” is understatement. VanLiew’s top throw of 75.55 meters (247.10) erased the Division III record of 72.08, established in 1994 by Fitchburg State’s Kris Therlaut.
No other competitor topped the 70-meter mark Saturday; VanLiew did it three times. He hit 64.54 meters on his first of three attempts in the preliminary round then unleashed his record-setting gem. His third preliminary throw hit 70.00. In the final round, he threw 70.92, 68.80 and 64.20, respectively.
“It was right there,” VanLiew said of his career-best attempt. “I knew as soon as it left my hand. I looked up — I was like, ‘that’s the big one.’ I didn’t know how far but I knew it was big.”
Consider that a javelin weighs 800 grams, or, a little less than two pounds, and one gets the idea of the force required to propel it.
“You just have to be aware of where it is because it’s 8-point-whatever feet long,” VanLiew said. “So you gotta have a solid grip and really know what you’re doing regardless of how light it might feel.”
Saturday’s performance had some precedence. VanLiew had entered this week’s competition at host Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Roger Harring Stadium having won the New Jersey Athletic Conference title with a throw of 69.11 meters (226-9) on May 4. That effort had broken his own school record and gone down as Division III’s eighth-best throw.
Nothing, however, came close to what he accomplished Saturday.
“It’s been a whole season-compilation of putting everything together,” VanLiew said.
Saturday’s dominance contrasted with his experience at last year’s Division IIII outdoor championships, when he squeaked past Moravian’s Gary Zack to capture his first javelin title. VanLiew’s winning throw that day measured 67.19 meters (220-5). Zack’s second-place effort was 67.14 meters (220-3). The narrow victory was the first individual championship in Rutgers-Camden history, but also motivation for VanLiew to improve.
“That was a goal to see if maybe I could get a bigger one and move up the list,” he said.
He and the Rutgers-Camden coaching staff, led by head coach Joe Puelo, did their research and invested time in technique, training and refining VanLiew’s latent ability.
“More training, more ideas about what we want to do,” is how he described it. “But in the end we got everything right. We’re getting it right at the right moment so as you can see, it was a good result.”
A javelin thrower in high school, VanLiew drifted away from the sport during his first two seasons at Rutgers-Camden. Recruited by the Scarlet Raptors as a soccer player, he started every game in his four-year career as a goalie and earned All-American honors his final season.
Once finished with soccer in the fall of 2011, he honed in again on javelin, having returned to the discipline. He earned the eighth seed heading into last year’s Division III outdoor championships.
“That’s such a great accomplishment but I knew I wasn’t done,” VanLiew said. “So I really wanted to see where I could step up and where I could put myself.”
At 6-foot-3, 195-pounds, VanLiew, a Deptford, N.J., native, might put himself in the U.S. national picture if he continues to excel. Per the Rutgers-Camden athletics website, he placed second out of 25 competitors at the ICAA Championships, against a Division I-heavy field, on May 12.
But, leaving as a two-time Division III outdoor champion and a three-time All-American in track and field deserves more than equal celebration.
“This is so much fun,” he said of Saturday’s performance. “This is just an amazing end to the collegiate season and my collegiate career. Hopefully you just keep it going.”