Archive for Thursday, July 19, 2007

Destination: Osaka, Japan

July 19, 2007

Eric Brown has traveled out of the country for track and field before, but not like anything he will experience during the next month.

Trips to Estonia and Japan will keep the 2002 Baldwin High School graduate busy with four meets. Brown, runner-up in the javelin a year ago at the NCAA championships, will soon be visiting two places for the first time in his young life.

"I am definitely ready to compete," Brown said. "It's going to be a big deal. I've never been to Europe or Japan, so this will be the farthest I've ever traveled."

The 2006 University of Arkansas graduate has traveled to Canada and the Caribbean islands to throw the javelin in years past.

Brown will be leaving Friday with his roommate to travel to Estonia for two weeks. He will then return home before traveling to Osaka, Japan, with the United States team for the World Championships.

It will be the largest meet Brown has ever competed in, as many of the competitors will be at the Olympics next summer.

"This is a very big step," Brown said. "In track, it's as good as the Olympics. There is no way of saying one meet is bigger than the other. It's definitely a huge step for me."

BHS coach Mike Spielman is proud of his former athlete for reaching such a high level in the sport of track and field.

"The World Championships are just like the Olympics, but just not on the Olympic year," Spielman said. "It's the full-blown deal. It will be neat for him to get that experience."

Brown competed at the U.S. Championships last month and placed eighth with a throw of 242 feet. The second place thrower finished with a mark of 246 feet, with the winner throwing 299-6.

The top three finishers were supposed to qualify for the World Championships. However they had to meet the standard of 255 feet. Brown qualified with his throw of 256 from the 2006 Kansas Relays.

That mark allowed him to compete in Japan with Breaux Greer, the American record holder.

"He's a great guy," Brown said of Greer. "He's definitely a character. Some people think he is cocky, but if you get to know him, he is a really funny guy."

Brown's parents, Dan and Jill Brown of Baldwin City, are trying to arrange plans to watch their son in Japan. The World Championships will be taking place Aug. 25 through Sept. 2.

"We're sad we can't go to Europe because of the short notice, so we're going to try and make the trip to Japan," Dan Brown said. "It's going to be different, but it will be exciting.

"We're just excited and proud that he will be competing," he said. "It was a nice surprise. We knew they are selective in their choices. It's really exciting."

Before he travels to Japan, Brown will be taking a two-week vacation with his roommate, Jaanus Uudmae, who is from Estonia. It will be the first time Brown has met his roommate's family.

"I basically have a tour guide when I get there," Brown said of his roommate. "His family is excited to meet me, because he has met my family. His family has never come over here, so they have a lot planned for us."

Estonia is a small European nation located south of Finland, across the Baltic Sea. Estonia neighbors Russia and Latvia in the northeast part of Europe.

It won't be all fun and games for the javelin thrower, though. He will be competing in three meets during a 10-day span. One of those meets will be Estonia National Championships.

Brown will be a guest at that meet. Uudmae's father was an Olympic champion jumper for Estonia and Brown will be their guest at the meet. Brown did say an Estonian thrower won the javelin at the World Championships in 2005, so he will have very good competition in Europe.

"They have a series of meets during the summer," Brown said. "I'm going to be in two of those. The other meet is their national championship. It should be a fairly normal meet, because I'll be throwing with some good people."

The opportunities that the next month presents have Spielman excited for his former Class 4A state champion thrower.

"Anytime you get to represent the United States and wear the USA gear is going to be a great experience for anybody," Spielman said. "I'm sure he is really excited about it. It's also a great thing for the Baldwin community to have someone competing at that level."

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