Ellsworth's Larson uses year off for strong start to track season
MENOMONIE - Sean Larson decided to walk alone last year.
By his own decision, the Ellsworth native stepped away from the sport of track field, from the weight throwing competition that he was making progress in towards the top of the WIAC conference.
He was stepping away from University of Wisconsin-Stout teammates.
He was stepping away and walking alone.
"I said to him it was a risky decision," UW-Stout head coach Lauren Knudsen said. "Diane (Schofield, Larson's throwing coach) and myself told him it would be hard to stay motivated and train hard by himself and without competition. But he promised us he would."
When Larson stepped back in this month he showed to his coaches that he kept his promise. He set a new school record in the hammer throw and has already automatically qualified for the NCAA indoor meet.
"It was a tough decision but I am a better person an athlete now," Larson said.
All by myself
Larson was already doing well for himself before taking a year off. He had top places in the WIAC meet for the hammer throw and discus, set school records, made it to nationals and was the men's team's Athlete-of-the-Year as a junior in 2008.
But Larson felt time off from the sport could lead to more, more as in better.
"I wanted a year to grow in size and get in shape and I wanted a year to work on my form in the hammer throw," Larson said. "Plus, I knew it was going to take me five years to finish college. I'm an art major and I knew the time off would be in line for my degree."
But stepping away had its price. NCAA Division III rules forbade him from training with the team anywhere around campus. Whatever training he did it would have to be by himself and no one else.
"It was tough, there was no question about it," Larson said. "I could train with my teammates or my coaches. I had to be my own trainer and coach. I couldn't compete in the meets. "
But was Larson wasn't really completely alone. His brother made sure of that.
"My brother Matt is my No. 1 fan and he made sure I stayed on track," Larson said. "He got on my case and made sure I got into the weight room and stayed healthy."
And prophets and prisoners and holy men can sometimes do their best work alone, sometimes athletes can too as Larson found out.
"No question that time away made me a better athlete and made me a better person," Larson said. "When you're alone you get a lot of time to think, time to set your own goals. I made up for the lack of people around me with my I-Pod. I kept working and kept the music going."
Back and better than ever
The result of this time off came quickly for Larson and Stout. Sean set the school record in the hammer throw in the very first meet of the season, the Northwest Open in Minneapolis. He threw the 35-pound weight 58 feet, nine inches.
The following week Larson snagged an NCAA provisional qualifying mark and first place at the UW-Stout Open at the Johnson Fieldhouse with a throw of 56-3. While the automatic mark of over 60 feet is still out there as a goal, Larson says setting a new school record means just as much if not more.
"I'm not so concerned about nationals so much as being able to make a mark here at Stout and put my name with all those who've been through here in a sport I really enjoy." Larson said.
Larson is one of three Blue Devils tracksters ranked in their events nationally, which puts the Stout team in the top 25 nationally.
"There's no question his presence makes us a top ranked team," Knudsen said. "There's also no question that he's a team leader in his event and the other throwers look up to him. That's why we're so glad to have him back."
Larson will be in competition at Stout again this weekend in the Warren Bowlus Open. The meet begins at noon at the Johnson Fieldhouse. Also competing in the meet will be Ellsworth's Morgan Place and Chelsea Hanson, running for UM-Duluth, Ellsworth's Chelsey Huppert, running for UW-Stout and Prescott's Maria Peloquin, running for UW-Eau Claire.