Sean Keller setting his sights higher, farther

Sean Keller extended his 2011 season to the end of July, throwing here at the Pan Am Junior Championships in Miramar, Fla. Greg Armstrong/ESPNHS

PORTLAND -- On Sunday mornings this winter, Sean Keller crossed the Columbia River from Vancouver, Wash. and came to the Concordia Throws Center to work on throwing the javelin.

The senior from Heritage High is bringing a new level of focus and maturity to his final season of high school throwing – and each week begins with a Sunday session on the same runway where Sam Crouser broke the U.S. high school record in 2010.

The record (255 feet, 4 inches) is in play for Keller this spring, but it’s not really the thing he’s targeting, at least not yet.

“I’m not setting a personal mark (goal),” he said. “I just want to go farther and farther.”

Last year, Keller threw a best of 232-1 on April 23 at the Centennial Invitational (Gresham, Ore.) for a new Washington state record and US#1 ranking that held up the remainder of the season. He threw 220 feet or better in eight additional meets.

He was getting by with his natural ability – his speed on the runway and the rubbery flexibility of his shoulder and arm.

But there was more that he could have been doing. After his last throws of the summer, he made some changes and took advantage of new opportunities. He decided that his future was in throwing, so he stopped playing football to minimize the risk of getting hurt. He flew to North Carolina twice – seated on the airplane next to Gresham, Oregon's World Youth javelin finalist Haley Crouser – to attend the first two sessions of the NSSF’s Kultan Keihas Project with coach Jeff Gorski. (“Kultan Keihas” means “javelin gold” in Finnish).

As 2012 began, Keller got into a consistent weight-training program for the first time and committed to Sunday mornings at the throwing center with javelin coach Scott Halley.

“I’m learning to use my lower body to throw farther,” Keller said. “(Weight training) will reduce my chance of injury. At a certain point you also have to stay flexible, so I take a half hour stretching my arm after workouts.”

In 2011, he felt like he threw too often on too little training.

This year, he plans to take a single throw to secure team points at dual meets and then rest his arm for the big invitationals.

The new approach also includes doing more events to help his team out. Heritage’s boys could be in the running for the Washington Class 4A team title and Keller wants to do what he can to deliver a successful dual meet season, as well as a possible state championship.

In addition to the shot put, discus and javelin, Keller plans to add the 400 meters (and 4x400 relay). The work he puts into running should help him develop more stamina and strength.

Keller won the state championship last year at 220-6 and then qualified for the Pan Am Juniors, where he was sixth with 228-6.

“By the last meet (USATF Junior Olympics in Kansas City, Mo.), I felt pretty tired,” he said.

If all goes according to plan, Keller could throw deep into the summer again. He is targeting the U.S. Junior Championships (June 15-17) and leaving open the possibility that he could make the field for the U.S. Olympic Trials (men’s javelin starts June 23).

As a member of the Kultan Keihas Project, he is anticipating a summer trip to Finland for a competition there.

“Javelin is pretty much like the NFL in Finland,” Keller said. “It will be interesting seeing what they have.”

And if he makes the U.S. junior team again, he would compete in Barcelona, Spain at the World Junior Championships (July 10-15).

It’s a lot to look forward to and Keller is planning and preparing so that he’s ready. Those Sunday morning workouts in the Northwest winter could pay off in June and July.