EUGENE, Oregon – There’s not too many athletes that are labeled naturals, but Raymond Dykstra fits the criteria, even if nobody knew it at first.
The Canadian born Dykstra, who is a junior at Kentucky, stumbled upon the javelin quite by accident.
Growing up in Canada, Dykstra’s brothers and himself were steered toward soccer, bypassing the national sport of hockey because of cost. Most of his youth was occupied playing the sport.“I told my mom she probably should have put me in hockey because me and my brothers are all pretty good size now,” Dykstra said. “But soccer was the sport we grew up playing.”
Dykstra dabbled in track but it was running races, not hurling javelins or shot puts.
“I went to a really small school so chances are if I played in something I was going to do well,” Dykstra said. “I wasn’t a really good distance runner but I entered the 800 and finished second to advance. I remember my mom said I wasn’t going to the next competition because my time was so bad. She wasn’t going to waste the gas.”
Dykstra enrolled in high school and was playing mostly soccer. The track coach knew about his relay running and needed bodies for the team, so he was recruited.
“I did do track in high school because soccer was earlier in the year,” Dykstra said. “It was easy for me. I did a lot of running.”
It wasn’t something Dykstra particularly enjoyed and one day at practice while the sprinters were doing a training drill, Dykstra’s eyes were focused on the other field where the javelin throwers were practicing.
“I remember it perfectly, we were practicing sprints and I wasn’t that into it and I asked if I could throw a javelin,” Dykstra said. “My coach could see I wasn’t putting any effort into the workout so she said, “Yeah, sure, go ahead.’”
Dykstra got some basic instruction from a senior and on his first throw equaled the older teen's personal record.
“That was with a javelin I wasn’t even supposed to be using,” Dykstra said. “That’s how it all started. At the end of the practice my track coach came up to me and made a deal. She said if I got a medal at our championships she would buy me my own javelin.”
Dykstra didn’t have a lot of time to get ready for provincials, the U.S. equivalent to state championships.
“I came really late in the season so I didn’t have a lot of training,” Dykstra said. “So basically at every meet I was learning something new and trying to get better. I kept throwing it a little farther at every meet.”
By the time he reached provincials, he felt nervous, but ready.
“There was a guy four throws in front of me who broke a 30-year record,” Dykstra said. “Then I threw and went past him. That was something huge for me.”
Dykstra basically bettered a 30-year record by almost eight meters.
“I didn’t have great training in the beginning," he said. "My throw coach was teaching me the basics and stuff he saw on the Internet. When I was in 10th grade I got a new coach and joined a club and got more training.”
By the time he enrolled at Kentucky, Dykstra was a well-known name. As a freshman, he set the school record and was named an All-American. He followed that up in his sophomore year by being named team captain and finishing fifth in the javelin at NCAAs, earning his second consecutive All-American title.
He is the favorite in this year’s NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships and has aspirations to represent Canada in the next Summer Olympics.
“I had a chance to go in 2012,” Dykstra said. “I went to the first trials and knew I probably wouldn’t be able to qualify. I learned so much while I was there. I think for the next one I will be able to throw a little further and make it. I am going to be so prepared at trials so I think I’ll be ready.”