Madison Larsen only had two goals set for herself when entering the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Track and Field Championships.
And she accomplished them both.
Larsen earned second place in the women’s javelin on her very last throw as a college athlete, at 129-feet, 2-inches. It was a personal best mark as well as the second-best throw in South Dakota School of Mines & Technology history. It was also almost a six-foot improvement over last year’s then personal best performance when she took third in the event (123-1)
It is not necessarily impressive that Larsen placed second — she could throw a javelin in her sleep.
What is impressive, however, is that Larsen placed second after having been extremely limited on her reps during practice this entire season due to some shoulder problems.
In fact, the entire week before competition, Larsen did not touch a javelin at all.
Growing up in Rapid City, Larsen began playing softball in her t-ball days. A majority of her enthusiasm for sports came from watching her big sister, Sidney, compete. Since Sidney played softball, Madison also wanted to. When Sidney switched to track and field, Madison also decided to join.
When Larsen knew she was coming to South Dakota School of Mines, she reached out to Jerry Schafer, Hardrocker track and field head coach, and was welcomed immediately.
Competing in the high jump since middle school, Larsen stopped her freshman year at Mines after an injury hindered her from participating in that event. Hardrocker assistant coach Steve Johnson knew Larsen played softball and thought maybe the javelin would be a better fit for her. Thinking that it looked like a blast, Larsen agreed.
“Madison’s story is one of perseverance,” Johnson said. “Every time we’d find something that worked, it seemed like something would come up to slow us down again. Over the last four years, she’s put in so much time and energy to this sport and it’s amazing what she’s been able to accomplish.
“For the last two years just bringing her arm over her head has been problematic, which is not good for a javelin thrower. But she always trusted that we’d find another way to train to keep her strength up. We improved her runway technique considerably and really worked on using her hips to deliver the javelin. What she’s accomplished in her time here has been incredible.”
Someone whom Larsen credits with making a big impact on her career is former teammate Alex Wood, an All-American in the javelin, who she practiced with.
“He really helped me out my freshman year when I was just learning how to throw javelin," Larsen said. “He gave certain drills to do outside of practice that really translated well into the mechanics and technique of throwing the javelin. It was a slow process, and I would get frustrated at times, but he would always be there saying things like, ‘it will come, just give it time and effort,’ and stuff like that. It really helped me stay focused and believe I could get there! I also found it super cool of him because he would take time away from his practice to help me get better.”
Repeating the same prayer before every meet, Larsen also wears a silver, heart-shaped infinity necklace that her older sister gave her. She believes that these two things being with her at every competition have helped her to be successful in the sport.
Although it is Larsen who was putting in the work day in and day out, she says that she would not have made it this far without those who have supported her. Extremely grateful for her family, Larsen also says she is thankful for her teammates and coaches who have been supportive throughout the season.
Asking for her favorite memory besides placing at the RMAC Outdoor Championships, Larsen says all of the time she has spent with the Hardrocker team is her top pick.
“My coaches and teammates and a lot of other people were really supportive of me, especially throughout my injuries in my collegiate career,” Larsen said. “Almost every meet everyone just has so much fun with each other on the team, and even if you don’t do your best, all of your teammates support you and say that you’ll get it next time so don’t worry about it as much.”
Holding family as a top value in her life. Larsen says that the relationship with the team has been extremely helpful to her in her Mines track and field career. She explains that the team has become a second family to her — so much so that she invites members over on holidays so they, too, can enjoy a family atmosphere. Although she is sad that her career is over, she remains happy for the relationships she has built.
Larsen will graduate in December 2018 with her master’s in biomedical engineering.
“I’m extremely happy with how it ended. I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better ending. I was excited that even with my shoulder problems ,I could remain consistent with where I was throwing and be able to PR on my last throw at conference,” she said.