Nebraska javelin thrower Sarah Firestone is a one-season, one-event track and field athlete.
She gets only six attempts per meet, and about eight meets per year, to make the most of what she trains all year for.
It’s important for Firestone to take advantage of each of her opportunities, but at the first outdoor meet of the year two weeks ago in Arizona, she wasn’t off to a great start.
Her personal best entering the meet was 165 feet, 7 inches, but her first two throws didn’t reach 140 feet.
NU throws coach Scott Cappos and combined events coach Casie Witte told Firestone she'd better pick it up. She did, unleashing a throw of 178-1. That won the meet, was the third-best mark in the nation this season, leads the Big Ten Conference and is No. 4 all-time at Nebraska.
“(After my first throws) I just looked at Coach Cappos and Casie and they were both like, ‘Will you compete already? Just throw,’” Firestone said. “My third throw I went out there and I saw where it landed and I was thinking it was around my (personal record). They announced it (178-1), and I was in complete shock.”
In the past few years Firestone has been able to throw only about 10 feet farther each year, so to start the season with such a big improvement has her excited about the rest of the season.
Firestone will compete at the Husker Spring Invite on Saturday at Ed Weir Stadium. The women’s javelin is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
Last year as a freshman Firestone finished fifth at the Big Ten Championships. She was picked as a team captain this year.
The Husker coaching staff thought a lot of Firestone when recruiting her. The NCAA scholarship limit for women’s track is 18 total scholarships. The coaches have to decide how to split that money among a roster that includes more than 50 athletes.
Firestone said she was offered half of a scholarship, and that scholarship money factored in her decision to come to Nebraska from Mercersburg, Pennsylvania.
“For one event, and one season, instead of being indoor and outdoor, it was pretty dramatic for me because for Nebraska and the coaches to have that much faith in me,” Firestone said.
She played several sports in her youth, and thought maybe college soccer would be her ticket. It was during her freshman year of high school when a track coach told her parents they should give him one afternoon to see what she could do with a javelin. She did well.
Pennsylvania is one of only about 20 states to have javelin in high school. Firestone set a state record.
Her accomplishments before coming to Nebraska include numerous records and two AAU national championships, but Firestone said what’s most memorable is the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick national championships she won in 2006 and 2008.
“That was a lot of fun,” she said. “When I’m 8 years old, I’m standing on the field of the Baltimore Ravens’ stadium at halftime in front of all of these people. It was just those experiences that I remember the most. I remember those more than, ‘I got this medal here or this trophy here.’”
Her brother, A.J., was a college punter at Penn State and Wagner College, and is training for a pro career.
Firestone never really wanted to try another event in college track. A javelin weighs less than 2 pounds, so technique and athleticism are just as important as strength. With only one event, she has lots of time to try and find perfection.
“A coach I worked with at a lot of clinics used to describe (javelin) as like a shotgun,” she said. “Your arm is like the barrel of the shotgun. Everything else is produced in the core and your legs and everything else, and then your arm finally releases the javelin. It’s very technical. If one little technical thing goes wrong, you can tell it in the throw, and see it in the flight of the javelin."