Eastern Washington hammer thrower Jordan Arakawa looks nothing like Thor, but he probably has better technique.
“They say it takes 10,000 throws to master the event,” said Arakawa, a junior from Olympia whose methodical approach has landed him among the nation’s elite throwers. As the Eagles fly to Flagstaff, Arizona, for this week’s Big Sky meet, Arakawa ranks 13th in the NCAAs and seventh in the Western Region with a best of 219 feet, 8 inches.
Not bad for a kid who originally wanted to play pro baseball like his father; and who when he first changed sports, it was to track, not field.
Arakawa picked up the hammer at the urging of then and current girlfriend Olivia Midles, who just happens to throw the hammer for the Eagles. By his senior year at Capital High School, Arakawa was on the podium at the state 3A meet, finishing third.
“He picked it up very fast,” recalls Eastern assistant coach Marcia Mecklenburg, who was impressed enough to recruit Arakawa to Cheney to throw the discus and hammer.
As a freshman in 2011, Arakawa made a quick impression with a 196-3 hammer mark that was good for fifth all-time in school history and fourth in the Big Sky meet. He redshirted for the 2012 outdoor season, then erupted in the outdoor hammer last year with five tosses of 200 feet or better.
Arakawa is only 5-feet-11, 211 pounds, but Mecklenburg says he makes up for that with his diligence in the weight room, which in turn makes him “very explosive.”
At the Duane Hartman Invitational last season, Arakawa hit 213-8, which put him No. 2 all-time at Eastern. He went on to compete at the NCAA West Preliminary Round, where he placed 21st with a throw of 201-11.
That’s partly because he heeded Mecklenburg’s advice to drop the discus, which to the untrained eye looks similar to the hammer. Not so.
“With the discus, you want your hips to drive forward, but with the hammer you want to drive the hammer in front of you,” explained Arakawa, who credits Mecklenburg with an “incredible” abililty to see him through the inevitable plateaus.
“I’ve listened to her and she’s also listened to me,” said Arakawa, who took the analysis one step further with a term paper for his biomechanics class.
“There’s a lot to be learned,” said Arakawa, a pre-med student who already knows one thing: his brawn doesn’t match his brain.
“I love the hammer, but I’m not the most genetically gifted athlete,” said Arakawa, 22, in disdaining a possible run at the Olympic Trials in 2016. Instead he’ll take a run at medical school “because I need to look to my future,” said Arakawa, an all-Big Sky academic selection.
The short-term outlook is equally bright, both for Arakawa and the Eagles. Pole vaulters Nick Stearns and Courtney Bray were named Tuesday as the Big Sky field athletes of the week, an honor Arakawa has won four times this spring.
Arakawa and fellow throwers Jon Buchanan and Zack Nielsen reached the podium at the Big Sky indoor meet this year, and Arakawa would like to see that happen in Flagstaff. His 219-8 throw at the Duane Hartman Invitational in March has inched him closer to the school and Big Sky Conference record of 226-2 set in 2007 by David Paul.
Beyond that, he wants to reach the nationals.
“He’s right on track,” Mecklenburg said.
In other words, he’s no Thor, but he is a marvel.