It sounds cliché, but the art of the javelin throw really does run in the Stevens family of Fall City. So does the art of breaking records.
The story starts back in the 1980s, when dad Jim Stevens set the Mount Si High School record for unlimited-flight javelin with a 199-foot throw.
Jim took up the sport as a high school junior, after a friend of the family involved in the University of Washington track program noticed his long arms. He threw for two years, taking fifth and then second at state, and held the Mount Si school record.
A generation later, Jim’s oldest son, Kyle, also made his mark and set a record in 2009.
“I held the new school record until this guy came along,” says Kyle, grinning at his brother.
“This guy” is little brother Bradly. Think of him as the newest model of the Stevens family throwing machine. He holds all four class records for javelin at Mount Si.
A multiple state champion, Bradly threw a 198.1 at state this year, but his best senior throw was 199.5 at home under overcast skies.
“The javelin is unique,” says Jim. “Once you get to a certain level, all of a sudden you have a day. The stars align.”
The rules of the game changed by the time Kyle set the mark in restricted-flight throwing in 2009, with 190 feet, seven inches.
Restricted-flight javelins were introduced in 1986, after the world’s top athletes were starting to throw the old models out of stadiums.
“The weight displacement is different,” Jim said. “The ones I throw would land flat. Theirs tip over faster. There’s more weight in the nose.”
Bradly set the state record in restricted flight and busted his dad’s old unlimited record as a junior with a 205-foot, 10-inch throw, at state last year. Bradly came home with his second state javelin medal last month.
It’s a bit of an open question where this ability comes from.
“They got big, strong arms from their grandmother,” Carol, says Gene, Jim’s dad. Carol’s brothers, it seems, are all sturdy of limb.
“We were both pitchers in baseball,” says Kyle. “That’s where we got our arms.”
The boys started out playing soccer, baseball and basketball, but like their father, eventually found the javelin, a sport that has its roots in a weapon thrown by the classical ancients.
Like his father, Kyle also came to javelin and track late, competing in javelin, discus, shot and triple jump in high school and going to state.
Bradly, though, started younger, as a freshman, and threw the discus and shot as a middle schooler.
As teens, they practiced throwing 2-pound javelins at Chief Kanim Middle School.
After graduation, Kyle walked on the WSU team. He had a rough college road due to injury. He hurt his collar bone freshman year, tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow sophomore year, and took junior year off from throwing to recover. He’s now seeking a double degree in mechanical and civil engineering at Washington State at Pullman, where Bradly hopes to join him.
It feels good to be throwing, says Kyle.
“It’s been my first year back, so I’ve eased into it. I’ve spent more time in the training room than I have competing.”
But at the conclusion of state last year, Bradly threw out the same ligament.
He and his brother had the same doctor, the same surgery, the same scar.
Bradly wasn’t sure if he could throw this year, and might have just hurdled this season. But with help from off-season coach Jan-Olaf Johansen and Mount Si coach Dave Ovall, he tried a program designed for lower impact.
To prepare for his senior season, Bradly made his way slowly back to competition. Learning a low-impact way to toss, not throw, he made thousands of tosses a month, with weighted tennis balls and dumbbells before working his way back to javelins.
“He got back into competition way faster than I thought was possible,” said Jim.
With the gold medals now safely hung in his room, Bradly plans to take part in a regular javelin open competitions at Shoreline, seeking attention and potential scholarship dollars.
He’d love to compete at Washington State University with his brother.
Jim, meanwhile, has considered getting back into the sport, but realizes there’s be a lot of pain and work involved. He’s watched as his children made their marks.
Bradly and Kyle’s older sister, Leslie, also went to state for the triple-jump and javelin. Her senior year, 2011, she set the fifth-place record at Mount Si.
“It’s a lot of fun, and I’m very proud of all the kids,” says Jim.
The Stevens brothers are still competitive, but their five-year difference has made it hard to find an official venue.
“All I had to chase was his school records,” said Bradly.
“We’ve never thrown at a meet together. We’ve never really competed against each other,” because of injury, he said. “Hopefully this summer, we’ll get some time to do that.”
Photo by Robert Wachtendonk Photography
Bradly Stevens makes a throw in the state track and field finals.