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TCU Magazine "Riff Ram"

Splash Page | First Person | Track & Field | Football | Frogs in the Olympics


Borrowed brilliance

The javelin was someone else’s but the hard work was all his.

By Rick Waters '95

Something just didn't add up for track and field throws coach John Kenneson.

It was the middle of the spring season and his star javelin thrower Joe Brown had worked and worked to perfect his run-up technique. He had good arm strength and a natural javelin strike.

"He was doing a lot correctly," Kenneson admits, "but he was not getting the results we thought he ought to."

They tried every tweak Kenneson could think of. No luck. Then a track truism occurred to him: Sometimes an athlete is only as good as his equipment.

Brown had made the leap. He had outgrown the 60-meter javelins TCU had in stock and needed one with a higher rating.

(Ratings on javelins correlate to the stiffness of the shaft. Lower-rated javelins are wobblier.)

Kenneson borrowed a higher-caliber one from the University of Texas-Arlington, but after a few days of trying, Brown wasn't gaining much distance.

Kenneson kept looking.

Eventually he called his former protégé Tom Pukstys, whom he coached at the University of Florida to All-America status and eventually became a six-time U.S. champion and two-time Olympian.

"We described my technique and the results I was getting, and Tom said, ‘I know exactly what you need. It's in my garage. I'll send it to you,' " recalls Brown, who graduated in May with a 3.678 grade-point average and degrees in marketing and entrepreneurial management.

A 90-meter javelin, the highest rated, arrived by FedEx days later. It was the one Pukstys used to become the American record holder in 1993.

Brown saw results immediately. He went from throwing 213 to 215 feet to 220 - a giant leap in a sport in which inches separate good from great.

"If you know how to use it, a superior javelin will reward you," Kenneson says. "I firmly believe it helped Joe gain about five to eight feet, which is huge in this sport."

Weeks later, Brown won the Mountain West Conference title on his final throw with a toss of 221 feet, 7 inches. It was TCU's first javelin title since 1954.

"I began to feel very comfortable with it and started to gain a lot of confidence," Brown remembers.
Two weeks later at the NCAA Midwest Regional, Brown shattered his own school record with a blast of 224 feet. In his senior year, he was going to the NCAA Championships for the first time.

More honors would come. Despite a stiff headwind, he earned All-America status with a toss of 211 feet, 9 inches to place 10th overall. He was TCU's first All-American in javelin.

Later in June, the Mountain West Conference selected Brown as the 2007-08 MWC Male Student-Athlete of the Year, another Frog first.  

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