NCAA Track and Field Championships : Oregon’s Flax Smashes Hammer Throw Mark

Associated Press

Oregon’s Ken Flax, contending he had three technically bad tosses, broke the meet record in the hammer throw three times and equaled the collegiate mark Thursday during qualifying at the NCAA track and field championships.

Flax’s best throw of 255 feet 1 inch, came on the last of his three attempts and matched the collegiate record set this year by Washington State’s Tore Gustafsson of Sweden.

However, Flax’s throw was measured metrically at 78.74 meters, compared with 78.76 for Gustafsson. The imperial conversions, though, are the same.

Gustafsson had set the meet record of 246-10 in last year’s final, and Flax surpassed that distance on his first attempt in the qualifying, throwing 247-11. He followed that with a toss of 252-6, breaking the American collegiate record of 249-5 he had set last week.


“Technically, all three throws were poor,” Flax said. “I didn’t ‘stick’ the finish. If you stick the finish, that’s another 10 feet.

“But I did get some good speed in the throws and that helped.”

The hammer throw qualifying had been postponed from Wednesday because of severe thunderstorms and lightning, and the final also was pushed back one day, from Friday to Saturday.

Gustafsson, who had expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the postponements, claiming meet officials “don’t care” about the hammer throw, qualified for the final with a throw of 222-4. He fouled on his other two attempts.


Gustafsson and Flax are friends off the field of competition, but strong rivals inside the hammer throw ring.

The 24-year-old Gustafsson, a licensed bricklayer, has beaten Flax in four of their five meetings, his only loss coming in the 1985 Pacific 10 Conference Championships, “when I got robbed.”

“Just about every time I throw against him, he chokes and I PR (do my personal best),” Flax said.

“I’m not worried,” Gustafsson said. “I want to throw 260 (in the final).


“The reason I didn’t throw well today was I just came out to qualify,” said Gustafsson, who threw two flights after Flax. “When I heard he had thrown far, I wanted to throw farther.

“I know there will be a little more pressure on me now. I know there will be more competition in the final than there was last year. He’s really throwing well.

“But this was just qualifying. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you make the final.

“This is going to put some pressure on him, but it doesn’t mean a thing,” said Flax, a walk-on at Oregon four years ago. “Today doesn’t count. Saturday’s a whole new ballgame.”


Flax, the only United States native among the top 10 all-time collegiate hammer throwers, will be trying to become the first American to win the event in the NCAA meet since Boris Djerassi of Northeastern in 1975.

“It’s time for an American to come through in this meet,” he said.

“This is the meet we’ve worked for all year.’

While Flax’ throws were impressive, they still were far short of the world record of 283-3 held by Yuriy Syedikh of the Soviet Union and the American mark of 265-5 held by Jud Logan.