#ThrowbackThursday - Stolen Thunder: Nik Arrhenius' 2001 Arcadia USR - March 28, 2013
Throwback Thursday is a new DyeStat feature that allows us to remember and celebrate some of the great meets and performances that have been a part of our DyeStat coverage since John Dye founded the site. Thanks to many stories, photos and videos that have been preserved in our archives, we’re able to relive and share with you some of the very best of DyeStat.com.
Stolen Thunder: Nik Arrhenius' 2001 Arcadia USR
THE BIG THROW | INTERVIEW | 2001 ARCADIA COVERAGE | ORIGINAL STORY/PHOTOS
By Steve Underwood
He’s since been an NCAA D1 champion and represented his family’s native Sweden in two IAAF World Championships and the 2008 Olympic Games. But for Nik Arrhenius, the third Arcadia Invitational discus title he won as a Mountain View (Orem, Utah) senior 12 years ago still ranks very, very high on his list of all-time top moments in the sport – and not just because he destroyed the USR by nearly nine feet.
It was also the Athlete of the Meet award that he won the face of, um, some very fast competition. In fact, Arrhenius has a story about his post-meet meal there he recalls – but more on that later.
The Arcadia Invite – held every April in California, in the shadow of the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains northeast of L.A. – bills itself as the home of national records. And while there have been outstanding performances in nearly every event there over more than 40 years, the amazingly deep boys’ 3,200s seem to grab the headlines more often than not recently. But it serves the true fan well to venture away from the track for awhile Saturday evening. “The discus throw at Arcadia is a long hike from the track, on the other side of the baseball diamond,” said John Dye, this week remembering the 2001 Invite. “I don’t always go out there unless something special is anticipated. Nik was definitely something special.”
Distance runners love Arcadia, but that fondness is shared nearly on a par by discus throwers. The competition is always great, the winds are often favorable, and fans surrounding the sector often number in the 100s. Arrhenius was a two-time defending champ coming into the 2001 meet and already one of the best preps ever. The son of a Swedish Olympian and the second of three outstanding throwing brothers, he had marked 174 feet as a freshman, 193 as a soph, and as a junior not only reached 213, but finished second in the 2000 World Junior Champs in Santiago, Chile.
“There weren’t a whole lot of other goals (besides the record) that I had left in high school,” Arrhenius – now the women’s throws coach at BYU and still competing at 30 – said this week. “The weather in Utah that spring hadn’t been great, but I had thrown 218 in competition coming in. In practice the week before, I had a day with a good wind and I had thrown 228.”
The national record he was shooting for: 225-2, set by Kami Keshmiri of Reno, Nev. at the 1987 Golden West Invite.
Arrhenius admitted he had thought about the record at least since his 174 as a frosh, already immensely devoted to the event. “I was thinking maybe I could improve 20 feet every year,” he said, “so I could get it by my senior year.”
On meet day, with a “not too bad” wind, Arrhenius had a below average start with a foul, 196-6 and 199-0. “I had good warmups, but in the prelims I was too aggressive,” he recalled. “I was definitely a little tight.”
Going into the finals, though, he was able to improve his technique and “get in a groove.” Still, his fourth throw, while hitting 217-0, was “too low. I was thinking if I could get the thing up, I could get the record.”
His fifth throw (217-8), however, was “too high. So now I had one too low and one too high, so my thought was to split the difference.”
Regarding his sixth and final throw, Arrhenius would say to the late Doug Speck in a post-competition interview, “I knew it was more than 220; I didn’t know anything after that. It rode the wind pretty good.”
This week, though, he said this: “My first instinct, right as I released it, was negative. I thought I’d released it off the wrong finger.
“But then I looked up, and it kept on sailing.”
Let John Dye take it from there. “I was on the right sector line, about 190 yards out. Opposite me on the left sector line were the great high school record gurus, Jack Shepard and Mike Kennedy. As the discus soared through the air, all three of us sprinted toward the landing spot, which was far beyond the last chalked circle.
“The referee measured the throw and immediately called for a steel tape needed to make a record throw official. The steel tape confirmed it, and the referee shouted the mark loudly as the knot of throws enthusiasts erupted in cheers. Doug Speck announced the throw on the PA for the benefit of those back at the track.”
It wasn’t “just” a record, though. “I thought maybe it was 227 or 228,” said Arrhenius. “Even if it was 229, I would have been super happy.”
But it was more than 229 and more than 230. The throw had been measured at a monster 234-3, one of those performances that barely – if at all – exists in the imagination until it happens. “I never thought it would be something in the 230s,” Arrhenius said. As that crowd erupted, he was caught by Dye’s camera, his hands folded behind his head, trying with limited success to absorb the enormity of the performance. “I was like, ‘Holy cow, did I just do that?’” he said.
Though the discus USR has been since twice broken – with 236-6 by Mason Finley in 2009 and 237-6 by Ryan Crouser in 2011 – Arrhenius’ performance at Arcadia remains of the iconic prep throws ever, especially coming where and when it did. And it was the peak of a splendid senior season for Arrhenius that also saw him throw 225 in a Utah Invite a week later and 221 at his regional meet in “terrible, terrible wind conditions.” It was also a crazy good night (and year) for Arrhenius’ Mountain View HS. The Utah powerhouse was also represented at Arcadia by senior Dustin Bybee, fifth in the mile at 4:09.19; and senior Chandler Goodwin, second in the 3,200 in 8:59.57. Arrhenius also won the shot put that night. Mountain View would win their fourth straight state title that spring.
Arrhenius then went to college close to home, at BYU, where he first embarked on his two-year mission. Unfortunately, injuries plagued his collegiate career, including a broken wrist, a sports hernia, and a stress fracture. Still, he would win the NCAA title as a senior in 2007 and hit a 215-9 best that moved him high on the all-time collegiate list (#6 at the time). That year he would represent Sweden at the IAAF World Champs, as he did again in 2011 with brother Leif (a 209-footer and Arcadia champ as a prep himself). He also made the Swedish Olympic team for Beijing in 2008.
Arrhenius graduated from BYU and – married (Tiffany) and with two sons (Erik and Evan) – has been working on his nearly complete Masters in exercise science. And while he landed the coaching gig last year, he’s continuing to compete – but the USR at Arcadia will always be among the fondest memories. “I knew that being able to do something like that at Arcadia was really something big,” he said.
Big enough that Arrhenius managed to claim the Athlete of the Meet award over another greatly hyped champion. You recall, there was a big to-do over a “Big Three” in distance running that year, and there was a showdown in the boys’ mile won by a certain Alan Webb in a very fast and impressive 4:01.81 – over a certain Ryan Hall.
Nik remembers it this way: “We went to a restaurant afterward called the Claim Jumper, and we were eating and celebrating, and it turned out that Webb and his team were there, too. At one point, he walked nearby and he just gave me this look...” With a laugh, he stops there.
So, he gave you a look ... like maybe you stole his thunder?
“Yeah, something like that.” Arrhenius chuckled again. He met Webb a few times and both have had their ups and downs as collegians and pros. But there’s no doubt that at the 2001 Arcadia some wicked magic happened off the track and on the other side of that baseball diamond that night.