On May 26, senior Nick Howe will have an opportunity to do something no other UC San Diego Track & Field athlete has ever achieved-win a third consecutive NCAA championship. The Triton javelin ace has already taken the top prize in his specialty four times at the CCAA Championships, owns a school record toss of 231-3 as well as a 3.29 GPA in political science. "Nick is certainly an exceptional athlete, one of the best we've ever had at UCSD," says veteran Coach Tony Salerno. "But his mental capacity is probably his greatest asset-he's just got a great ability to compete and find the big throw when he needs it." Just two weeks away from the trip to Pueblo, CO for the 2012 NCAA Division II Championships, Howe took time to share his thoughts on throwing the javelin, winning titles and post-graduate life.
Q-How did your second NCAA javelin championship differ from the first?
HOWE-Well the first one I was ranked something like fifth coming in and I really out-performed myself while the better throwers really choked. On the second one, I set the stage with a big first throw and really just demoralized everyone with a good throw farther than anyone else had thrown all year.
Q-What would a third NCAA title mean to you?
HOWE-It would really be an affirmation of everything I have been working on and it would just let me know that I'm going in the right direction with, honestly, my life. I'm trying to go bang with the best of the best in Europe and this final NCAA Championships could set that stage for me.
Q-You really don't take that many competitive throws during the course of the regular season. What is the thinking with that direction and what can you share about your training strategy in general?
HOWE-Your body can only take one to two throws a month just because of the nature of the event. You sprint and then jam your leg into the ground and stop in an instant so it really sucks on for all your joints taking that huge hit, especially when your 210 pounds and don't have great form.
Q-The year you spent a fair amount of time high jumping. Does that benefit your javelin performance in any way or is it something that is simply motivated by getting points for the team?
HOWE-Really the year started out amazing for high jump with me going 6'9" at the Blue/Gold meet but now it really sucks. It was started just because I showed the coaches how I got some hops and the rhythm is the same for both events-plus we needed some points at conference and I wanted a way to score more than 10 points.
Q-What is your overall "sports background" like? How did you get started throwing the javelin?
HOWE-I played baseball, basketball, track, football, and tennis in high school at the varsity level, but I was best at pitching and could have gone that way in college if I had really pursued it, but I would say that experience throwing has both hindered and helped me as the form and technique for pitching and throwing the javelin is so extremely different.
Q-What are the keys to success in your event? Do all of the top throwers do it the same way? What was the breakthrough step in your development?
HOWE-The key to success in the javelin is your technique, and it all boils down to how well you train for javelin strength, which is the biggest hurdle I have had to overcome because I always just did the typical bodybuilder workouts up through junior year in college-bench press, shoulder press, squats etc to fail for four hours. However, I haven't done bench press in over four months and I feel better than ever because I have been doing these funky little muscle exercises that are more specific for javelin and help me be more flexible and stronger while at the limit of my flexibility.
Q-Is there a steep learning curve in the javelin or is it something where, with the right set of skills, you can move up the ranks quickly?
HOWE-If you are talented then its easy, and for me and my little brother Nash, we can just feel the javelin and find the hole in the sky where it needs to go. For other people though it definitely isn't something you can pick up and do at a high level.
Q-What's the most embarrassing thing you've ever done in competition?
HOWE-The most embarrassing thing I did was probably just this year I celebrated because I had the best throw of my life at the Triton Invitational and I was so stoked, but the wind knocked it down and it was only good enough for third.
Q-Who's had the most influence on your success?
HOWE-My coach Tony (Salerno) is the best coach for me and he's monumentally helped me more than anyone except my dad.
Q-Are there any mind games between competitors or is it all strictly business at a big meet?
HOWE-Its mostly business at the meets, and we are all pretty friendly to each other and congratulate one another on big throws. The big thing for me is setting the tone, and if I can do that, then I know I can win.
Q-What other sporting endeavors would you compare to throwing the javelin?
HOWE-I would compare it to fishing, because no matter how big you go, you always suspect that there is a bigger one out there laughing at you.
Q-Outside of track & field, what other sport would you like to try? Which do you think would be the toughest for you to master?
HOWE-I would like to try baseball again, I was just really burned out after a different coach every year in high school but I really loved it. The hardest sport for me would probably be gymnastics because I'm way too tall. I want to start trying it though because the best javelin throwers throw a little bit of gymnastics and high bar stuff into their routines.
Q-You grew up in Northern California, moved to Texas, came back to Northern California after high school and been at college in San Diego for four years. Talk about those transitions. Which fits you best?
HOWE-San Diego is probably the best fit for me, but Texas is what made me. I went out there for high school after being raised in Mountain View, CA for most of my life and that transition and the emphasis on sports in Texas is really what molded me and set me up for success now.
Q-While at UC San Diego, you've written for the school newspaper, The Guardian. What's been interesting about that experience and how does it feel to see your name associated with something in print?
HOWE-Its really cool most of the time and writing is something I have considered doing full time as it allows for a really flexible schedule.
Q-Do you ever get hostile reaction to your opinions from readers?
HOWE-I've only gotten a few hostile reactions, one for my motorcycle article, which to be honest, wasn't a great article anyways, and one for my supposed lying about the Division I referendum. In regard to the latter, I was proven to be correct and the person making the accusations was actually found to be making things up.
Q-You're a political science major at UCSD. Why did you choose that course of study and what direction do you hope to go when you graduate?
HOWE-I've been accepted to law school and that was always the plan with the Political Science degree
Q-Do you have any post-graduate designs that include the javelin?
HOWE-Yes I do. I will be staying in San Diego and training with my Coach Tony Salerno, and hopefully at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. Other than that I really want to get into the Diamond League and get to London. I'm going to put off law school for the short term and see how far I can take the javelin.
Q-This year, you've had your younger brother, Nash, as a Triton teammate. How has that worked out?
HOWE-It has been amazing, especially being in the same event. A lot of people thought I would be threatened by him, and really he has the potential to be better than me. He has had a better mentor in me than I had as a freshman so the world could be his. I know in his position its hard to be in my shadow right now but I really hope he just does amazingly.
Q-Over the years, you've had your share of "unique" hair cuts and colors. Has there been any purpose to the variety or is it just part of the collegiate experience? Which was your favorite?
HOWE-Haha, I thinks its just a part of being in college, but I have always been changing it up with my hairstyles. The one I like the best was my shaved head, but my girlfriend likes the more sophisticated come-over look I have going now so that's where it'll probably stay
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