Austin Strawn doesn't exactly look the part.
With his glasses, left-handed delivery and 6-foot frame, the Eagle Point senior wasn't cast from the traditional mold of elite javelin throwers.
“I'm usually smaller than most of the people I compete against, so they're always surprised to see me throw,” Strawn said.
Put a javelin in his hand, though, and Strawn becomes a dynamo. He showed as much in 2018 when he blew away the field at the 5A meet as a 160-pound freshman, winning with a throw of 189 feet, 4 inches, the best mark in the nation for his class.
“We called him Clark, because he looks like Clark Kent,” Eagle Point coach Jef McClellan said.
Now Strawn is looking to end his high school career on a high note. And after having surgery to repair torn ligaments in his chronically sore elbow in January 2020, he believes he is ready for a big senior season.
“I feel better than ever, much better than I was before, for sure,” said Strawn, who threw 198-8 as a sophomore. “It was hurting for over a year. Every time I threw, I was getting extremely sore.
“If we have a meet anytime soon, I'm hoping to throw it just over 200. But toward the end of the year, I'm hoping to throw it into the 220s, 230s. I know I can do it, it's just about getting a good throw.”
Strawn is within striking distance of the school record of 205-0, set by 2012 state champion Garrett Snow. And considering he threw “way over 210” in fall practices, according to McClellan, Strawn could make a serious push up the state's all-time list, which is topped by national record-holder Sam Crouser of Gresham (255-4 in 2010).
“He'll probably crush our school record if he gets one good day to throw,” McClellan said. “I think he's got a shot at beating the state record this year. I think he's got it in him, if he stays healthy..”
At first blush, that may sound too optimistic. But during his sophomore season, McClellan said Strawn uncorked a throw in the 220-225 range, out of bounds, despite dealing with elbow pain. And he is much stronger now, filling out to 220 pounds.
“He's kind of got his man strength,” McClellan said.
Strawn began throwing the turbo javelin in junior high, winning a state championship in eighth grade. McClellan, who competed in the javelin and has coached it for two decades, could see Strawn's natural talent right away.
“I thought, 'This kid's got a super-fast arm,'” McClellan said. “Every film that we have on him, it's hard to watch between frames because his arm is so fast. He's a super-snappy guy. He does have a lot of flex in his arm. And he's a pretty long kid, too. He's got a nice reach.
“He's such a smooth thrower, and he's super competitive.”
Strawn said that he would “love to say it's form and technique, but ever since I was really little, I've been able to throw anything farther than anybody else.”
Strawn made a smooth adjustment to the regular javelin as a freshman. He threw 171-7 before cutting loose with an 18-foot personal best at the state meet, where he switched to the javelin that Snow used to set the school record.
Strawn's progress as a sophomore, when he was state runner-up, was hindered by the sore elbow.
“My arm was hurting the whole year,” he said. “I wasn't off to a great start. I knew I could've done better throughout the whole year.”
McClellan said that Strawn's elbow issue is one that is more common among lefties.
“They have that droppy-elbow kind of syndrome. It's like left-handed pitchers,” McClellan said. “He had off and on pain and never said anything about it for two years, and then he started throwing again as a junior, and he said, 'I've got to have someone look at my arm.'”
It took Strawn six months to return to light throwing following surgery. By nine months, he was able to go all out, in one practice making several throws past 200 feet.
With his vast potential, Strawn said he heard from several major college programs. He preferred to stay close to home, though, and signed with Oregon Tech early this month.
“A Division I school versus Division III, training doesn't matter too much,” he said. “It's important, but it doesn't matter what school I go to, I can make it to the Olympics or nationals from any school.
“None of the Division I schools really interested me enough to warrant going farther away and spending more money. I never really talked to any of the schools long enough to move forward in the process far enough to get any official offers.”
Strawn said that making the Olympics is his dream.
“Senior year of college, if I could throw in the 280s, I would be extremely hyped,” he said. “Anything between what I am now and there, I'd be happy with.”
Photos of state championship events are available online from Northwest Sports Photography at 4nsp.com