An Eagerly anticipated track season

By Rene Ferran, Herald staff writer April 17, 2010 

MAPLE VALLEY -- Derek Eager wasn't about to take any chances this spring.

Ever since eighth grade, the Tahoma (Maple Valley) senior seemed to suffer some sort of injury in wrestling that wrecked his track season.

There was the left leg injury in middle school. The torn rotator cuff as a freshman.

Then last year, it was a broken tibia in his right leg that required him to throw with a boot on his foot until May.

"I always tried to stay positive," Eager said. "In ninth grade, I worked on getting my leg strength up, figuring my arms would catch up later. Then when my leg got hurt (last year), I got my arm and my elbow stronger."

But like he said, he wasn't taking any chances. The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder gave up football and wrestling this year to focus solely on the sport he'd grown up around, watching the parade of world-class throwers who trained with his father, Keith, the Renton High throws coach.

"I just had bad luck with wrestling," Eager said. "My dad's also a wrestling coach, so I enjoyed it. But I wanted to have one good, healthy year to see what I could do with track."

Judging by what Eager has done so far this spring, the only answer is, Wow!

Eager broke the state record in the javelin at the Kent-Meridian Invitational on March 27, throwing a 218-7 on his third attempt that also is the nation's best this year (Tom Sinclair of Peninsula threw the javelin 239-1 in 1975, when the weight of the javelin was distributed differently).

Eager also leads the state in the discus after going 182-9 at the Arcadia (Calif.) Invitational, and he's one of the state leaders in the shot put with a best of 53-5.

Eager will be a heavy favorite at today's 49th annual Pasco Invitational in both the javelin and discus, and don't count him out of a potential throwing triple crown -- he's seeded fifth.

"I'm really looking forward to the javelin this weekend," he said, recalling his only previous trip to Edgar Brown Stadium -- the 2008 state meet, when as a sophomore he threw a then-career-best 188-5 to place fifth.

"I threw pretty well there that year, and I'm hoping to get a PR there. It's just good to be in top form for once and not trying to recover from some injury and make time up."

Eager's life is consumed by throwing at the moment. His senior project was holding a throwers camp for youngsters that included a pair of high-profile guest speakers -- Olympians Aretha Hill and Duncan Atwood -- with the proceeds benefitting the Pediatric Interim Care Center in Kent.

Eager travels once a week to the University of Washington to train with Atwood, who won a pair of Pan American Games gold medals in the javelin. UW is among the schools Eager, who sports a 3.73 GPA, is considering, along with UCLA (which he visited last weekend), Auburn (he'll make his official visit next weekend), Idaho and Arizona State.

But first, there's this weekend, and if Eager does as expected and wins the discus, he might be the first athlete to climb the awards podium in a tuxedo.

You see, the Tahoma prom is tonight at the Experience Music Project in Seattle, where his girlfriend, Kassie Jensen, will be counting the seconds as he races over Snoqualmie Pass, his throws coach Jennifer Gosnell at the wheel.

"Yeah, I'll be a little rushed," Eager said. "But she's been understanding about the whole thing."

Of course she has. She would never disrupt the best season of her boyfriend's life.


Whose time is it?

The Pasco Invite hands out wall clock plaques to its Most Outstanding Male and Female Athlete selections.

Tahoma's Derek Eager is one of the favorites to take home a timepiece, but he'll have competition.

Boys

Marques Avery, Pasco: The hometown favorite will contend in both the 100 and 200, plus run on a very good 4x100 relay.

Rashaun Johnson, Foster: The state 3A 300 hurdles champion will hope to sweep both hurdles titles.

Shane Moskowitz, Central Kitsap: The defending Invite champion in the 1,600 and 3,200 hopes to pull off the same double this year.

Girls

Mary Barnett, Hermiston: The Oregon 5A state champion in the discus also will go for top honors in the shot put.

Molly DeHart, Kentwood: She's among the favorites in the 100, 200 and long jump.

Anna Guo, Pullman: She's undefeated this season in both the long and triple jumps as a freshman.

Baylee Mires, Mead: One of the nation's best middle-distance runners, she'll go for titles in the 800 and 1,600.

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