Two years ago Meridian thrower Kaleb Heezen seemed lost at the Class 1A Tri-District Meet. With the chance to clinch a state berth, Heezen's effort was the least deserving.
Out of 16 javelin throwers, he finished 16th, and he entered the meet seeded fourth or fifth, Trojans track and field coach Patrick Ames said.
"At the tri-district meet, he was seeded in a spot to go to state and absolutely choked," Ames said in a phone interview, "and he owned it. His rhythm was off. He wasn't in the moment and wasn't focused. It mattered to him, but he couldn't control his nerves. It ended up being a big chip on his shoulder."
Heezen's ability was unquestioned. He's always been a terrific athlete and was a second-team all-state linebacker selection in football this past fall.
The Meridian senior just needed to learn how to perform when the spotlight was the brightest. He proved he could his junior year and accomplished two feats this spring no other Meridian thrower has every done.
"At least for Meridian it was unprecedented to have someone place in all three (throws)," Ames said. "Denver Vander Yacht, two years ago, qualified in all three, but Kaleb is the first to bring home a medal in all three. He's also the first javelin thrower to ever win state."
Heezen captured the moment during the Class 1A State Championships, winning the javelin state title with a personal-record throw, at the time, of 181 feet, 8 inches. He finished sixth in the shot put with distance of 50-1/4 and took seventh in the discus with a PR of 142-4. A week after state, Heezen placed second in javelin at Border Dual with a 187-6.
The Meridian senior has been selected The Bellingham Herald's All-Whatcom County Boys' Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Ames, who guided the boys' team to a third-place finish with 37 points, has been selected Coach of the Year. The Trojans' trophy was their best in school history.
"It was pretty fun to end the season like that," Heezen said in a phone interview. "At the start of the season I had pretty high goals for myself."
Heezen made sure his postseason started off right with an unimaginable performance at the Class 1A District Meet, posting PRs in all three of his throwing events.
It was the precursor to something special, and Heezen remained dialed in until the state meet was over. In fact, he only took one warm-up javelin throw at state before he unleashed his winning toss.
"It was my first throw. I put up a 181-8," Heezen said. "I set the bar high. Warming up I hit past the 180-mark and was on fire. Me and Ames had one practice throw, and he said, 'You're good.'"
And Heezen's rise to becoming arguably the top thrower in Whatcom County hasn't come without adversity.
The first two months of the track and field season, Ames said Heezen only threw the javelin twice during practice. The senior suffered a subluxation of both shoulders while trying to make a tackle during football last fall.
Heezen felt capable of throwing only weeks before track season and said after meets his shoulders were sore.
"I had to do a lot of physical therapy to get back where I was," Heezen said. "(Both shoulders) were messed up, but I didn't start throwing until late in the winter, almost right before track started."
Surely, though, despite the injuries, Heezen's commitment to training during the summer before his senior year paid off down the stretch of his final prep season.
"I really worked on my speed this summer to become a better athlete," he said. "Me and my dad worked all summer to get me ready. I don't know what we did, but I ended up being all state in football and track season everything came into place like I wanted it to. It feels great to go out like that."
Heezen finished his career with four state medals - his state title this spring, a third-place javelin medal earned a year ago and his medals in shot put and discus.
"Those guys are rare, obviously," said Ames of a talent of Heezen's caliber. "He really listened at the last meets to everything we were asking him to do. He knew he had the chance to be great, and everything he could control, he was taking control of, which was awesome."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
BOYS' TRACK AND FIELD WINNERS
2014: Kaleb Heezen, Meridian
2013: Patrick Gibson, Squalicum
2012: Patrick Gibson, Squalicum
2011: Logan Packard, Mount Baker
2010: Ryan Macdonald, Sehome
2009: Shayne Moore, Blaine
2008: Mason McHenry, Sehome
2007: Steven Ayers, Sehome
2006: Steven Ayers, Sehome
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.