The throw of a lifetime came at the right time for Riley Dolezal.
Seeded 14th in the javelin entering the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, the Stanley native shattered his personal best by more than 21 feet Sunday - winning the event with a heave of 83.50 meters (273 feet, 11 inches). Dolezal's mark matched the world "A" standard, giving him automatic qualification to represent the U.S. at the World Championships in Moscow on Aug. 15.
"I knew he could throw 80 meters, but I just didn't know if or when it would happen," Justin St. Clair, Dolezal's coach, said during a Monday press conference at North Dakota State University. "Luckily for us - or Riley, really - it happened on the most important day."
Stanley native Riley Dolezal, right, hugs his grandparents after winning the javelin at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships on Sunday in Des Moines, Iowa. The former North Dakota State University thrower automatically qualified for the World Championships in Moscow with his personal-best heave of 273 feet, 11 inches. Photo courtesy of Kyle Huegel/NDSU athletics.
"I didn't really expect it," Dolezal said at the press conference, accurately reflecting the views of the USA track and field world.
Dolezal, whose NDSU career ended with elbow surgery in 2009, had discussed with St. Clair the possibility of breaking 80 meters. That he was able to accomplish that for the first time - while adding an additional 3.5 meters (nearly 11 feet, 6 inches) - shocked both athlete and coach.
"Coming down the runway, it felt way more smooth," said the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Dolezal. "Right at the finish, where I hit it, I just felt all my energy and that buildup through everything just shoot through into the javelin. Watching it fly there and hearing Justin yelling and screaming, I kind of knew it was gonna be out there far."
The toss bested second-place finisher Sam Humphreys' best attempt by 1 feet, 2 inches.
It was quite the performance for the NDSU school-record holder, who said he didn't know whether he would compete again after blowing out his elbow.
In last year's Olympic Trials, Dolezal finished 17th and didn't advance to the finals. Now it's up to Dolezal to prove that Sunday's monstrous heave wasn't an aberration.
"You hit that big throw and you don't want it to be a fluke," Dolezal said. "You want to continue on and be at that mark all the time."