Quick decision spawns brilliant throwing career for Meridian's Kaleb Heezen

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 19, 2014 

17 1A TRK Invite

Meridian's Kaleb Heezen throws the shot as Lynden Christian hosted a 1A track invitational on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 in Lynden.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Ancient Greek mythology always has intrigued Meridian senior track and field athlete Kaleb Heezen. He used to reenact scenes from his favorite movie, "300," growing up, pretending he was King Leonidas slaying hordes of Persian Army cavalry by heaving large sticks he found outside through the air.

Heezen's a Trojan now, but what once seemed like a childhood fantasy ultimately proved to be a bit of foreshadowing.

"King Leonidas throwing the spear," Heezen said in a phone interview, "that made me want to throw javelin."

But Heezen never tried the event before high school. His spring always was filled with baseball, until he made a knee-jerk decision before spring tryouts his freshman year.

"I was always getting into trouble for overthrowing the ball," Heezen said of his baseball career. "My freshman year I brought all my baseball stuff to practice. I went to go change and opened my locker, and I had a pair of shorts and running shoes. I said, 'You know what, I'm going to do track.'"

Heezen's choice to leave the diamond has turned out to be right one.

Last year, the big, strong 215-pounder enjoyed a breakthrough season by placing third in javelin during the Class 1A State Meet with a throw of 168 feet, 2 inches. He placed second at the tri-district meet and won a district title with a season-best mark of 170-10.

Heezen is starting right where he left off last season, already setting a new PR with a 173-7 toss at the Bedlington Invite on March 21.

Heezen has garnered the most recognition for his javelin success, but he's demonstrated his versatility by becoming a strong shot put and discus thrower, as well.

The Trojans senior ranks among the top 10 in the Northwest Conference in both events to go along with his top javelin mark. His 48-6.50 shot put throw ranks second behind Sehome's Drew Norvell, and Heezen's 127-0 discus mark ranks ninth in league.

"It takes a special athlete, and we haven't had many of those guys that have done all three," Meridian track and field coach Patrick Ames said in a phone interview. "Denver Vander Yacht was good in all three. He was a district champion in shot put, discus and javelin. I'd never seen anyone win all three before, but Kaleb has that potential as well."

Heezen's certainly hoping to follow the state route Vander Yacht paved two years ago. He wants the label of state thrower in all three events, but that's not all.

"I want it to be a busy weekend," Heezen said.

Keeping busy would also include running a leg on Meridian's 4x100 relay team, which would be a badge of honor for the offensive lineman who's had aspirations to take his athleticism to the track since he was a freshman.

Even during football season, Heezen had sprints on his mind.

Meridian was clocking 40s last fall when he saw his time and asked Ames if it was strong enough to earn a relay spot.

"I think deep down, any offensive lineman thinks he could be a receiver or a tight end," Ames said. "I don't think it's any different in track. Any thrower thinks he could be a sprinter, and Kaleb is no different."

But unlike most throwers, Heezen actually can run. He recently lost a challenge race due to a pulled quad and was removed from his spot, Heezen said, but he's looking to earn it back later in the season.

Success in any sport or discipline requires repetition. The fact Heezen splits his time between three throwing events and sprints makes his ability to post strong marks and fast times all the more impressive.

"I spend my weeks one day throwing one event and one day doing another," Heezen explained. "On competition day, you throw both the discus and shot in the same day and spend one day on discus, too. I do all the sprint workouts and juggle it. I stay late after practice to finish everything."

Heezen's sheer desire drives his success, Ames said. It makes sense given the Meridian senior is willing to commit so much time to improving.

"He wants to get better, and he loves what he does," Ames said. "He is not resting on his laurels."

Heezen, whose track and field season was in doubt after suffering a subluxation in each of his shoulders during football season, has helped form arguably the top throwing group in the NWC.

The Trojans tout seven marks within the NWC's shot put, javelin and discus top 10. Spencer Blackburn, Chris Poortinga and Blake Carson each at least own one, and Tucker Garcia is another skilled thrower.

"We basically all consider each other brothers, and it's been fun watching them develop and grow," Heezen said. "Everyone on the team knows we can be better than we are now."

Heezen simply hopes his best happens in a little more than a month at state.

Reach Andrew Lang at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.

Reach ANDREW LANG at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call ext. 862.

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