Christian Nielsen wants to become the first 60-foot shot putter in Evanston school history.
Just wait until he’s 100 percent healthy.
Only 14 weeks after surgery on his hip, the ETHS senior uncorked a personal best throw of 55 feet, 2 inches Friday night to lead the Wildkits to their 10th straight team championship at the Dan Phillips Invitational indoor meet.
That’s 3 feet farther than Nielsen’s previous best and 3 feet farther than the Illinois High School Association state qualifying standard when the competition shifts to the outdoor season. Not bad for someone who has simply had to muscle his throws out there with his upper body strength and hasn’t yet been able to do any physical training for his lower body.
“I had a good series --- all my throws were over 50 feet --- and that’s pretty good considering they put 5 anchors in my hip and shaved an inch of cartilage off,” Nielsen said. “I haven’t been able to do any lifting with my legs yet, and once I start doing that I should get much more explosive in the circle.
“I injured my hip during track a couple of years ago and I was taking cortisone shots for it. Then in Week 3 of the football season (he started at center for the Wildkits), someone fell on it and the pain was really excruciating.”
Nielsen played through the pain to finish out the football season, then went under the knife in December. He said he never considered not coming back to track competition even knowing he’d need extensive rehab to even get back to where he was last summer, when his best toss measured 52-6.
“I wanted to stay connected to coach G (assistant coach George Woolridge). I’ve had a lifelong connection with him, working with him 6 months a year, 7 days a week, and he wants us to succeed so much that I’d like to see his hard work with us pay off,” Nielsen pointed out.
“I like track because it’s a slower pace than football, and it’s more mental. It’s all about technique and hitting your points. I’ve also learned a lot about focus. You can’t let other throwers impact what you’re doing. Last year when there was a big thrower in my flight at a meet, I’d let that get into my head and I didn’t perform as well as I could. I’ve learned that you can’t control what the others do, you can only control what you do. Now I can just let it play out and do the best I can, whenever I can.
“I did have a minor setback with my hip a couple of weeks ago because I tried to come back too soon. It’s a long season and I can’t push too hard, too soon. It’s about where you finish, not where you start.”
Nielsen and junior Trey Dawkins scored a 1-2 finish Friday, with Dawkins also recording a personal best toss of 54-5.
“I definitely want to be a 60-foot thrower by the end of the year,” Nielsen said. “I’ll focus on getting more separation from my hips, because even Friday I didn’t feel like it was really a far throw. There’s more to come. I trust in Coach G, and my performance is a direct reflection of his knowledge.”
Evanston actually piled up more points in the field events than on the track in repeating as the Phillips Invite champs, finishing with 83 points to 47 for runnerup Bloom in the 10-team field. Jumpers Jonathan Wilburn (45-2.25 in the triple jump) and Brian Daniels (21-4 in the long jump) both scored individual wins, backed up by Matt Caines in the triple jump (3rd at 42-1.25) and Wilburn in the long jump (4th at 20-4).
Pole vaulters Davis Patterson and William McMichael placed 2nd and 3rd, respectively, at 11 feet and 10-6 to supply points in an event where typically the Wildkits don’t have any entrants.
On the track, Evanston’s only win came from the 3200-meter relay team of Sam Bergman, Julion Michelin, Maximus Peterson and Logan Singer, clocked in a first place time of 8 minutes, 20.96 seconds. The Kits also ran 2nd in the 1600 relay (3:40.81) and 3rd in the sprint medley (3:42.68).
Also contributing individual points were Daniels, 2nd in the 55 high hurdles in 8.08 and 3rd in the 55 low hurdles in 7.90; Joey Eovaldi, 3rd in the 1600 in 4:47.07; and Kerry Vassell, 4th in the 55 hurdles in 8.25.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.