May 18, 2017
One year ago, Diablo Valley's Jack Pickard had never participated in a track and field meet at any level.
This month, Pickard competed at the CCCAA Northern California championship finals in the toughest men's track and field endeavor – the decathlon – and will be competing in the CCCAA state championships this weekend in the javelin event. Diablo Valley had 20 athletes qualify for the state championships, which are Friday and Saturday American River College.
After graduating from Concord High in 2015, Pickard wanted to stay close to home, so he decided to go to school at DVC and play baseball. Pickard had played pitcher, third base and catcher for Concord High.
But in fall ball in 2015, Pickard said that he injured both his shoulders, and decided not to pursue baseball any more. Academics kept the mechanical engineering major busy.
In fact, he met DVC track and field coach Kyle Whitmore through academics.
"He was a student-athlete tutor," said Whitmore, who met Pickard in 2016. Whitmore found out that the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Pickard had been a pitcher and asked him if he wanted to try to throw the javelin. Pickard agreed.
"(Before that), it wasn't even a thought," said Pickard about competing in track and field.
About learning the javelin throw, Pickard said "There were a lot of unexpected obstacles I had to cross. Just making the javelin fly straight. When I would throw it, the tip would come up and the tail would go down."
In Pickard's first javelin competition in February, he produced a mark of 39.30 meters (128 feet, 11 1/2 inches). He improved his personal record to 47.82 meters (156-11) on April 6, but was still a long shot to make the state championships when he competed in the javelin last weekend at the CCCAA Northern California finals at De Anza College.
Pickard's best mark of the competition was 47.27 meters entering his final attempt Saturday. He needed a huge personal-record mark to meet the qualifying standard for the state championships.
Pickard said he had been using a competitor's javelin for the competition, but on his last attempt, "I needed to change up the mojo somehow," he said. "I grabbed the javelin I usually use in practice. I felt I was the most focused I had been all day. Even before the mark was measured, I sad "Wow, that felt good."
The javelin sailed 52.52 meters (172-3) and the first-year track and field athlete qualified for the state championships.
"It's remarkable," Whitmore said. "This is what (the coaching staff) thought he would do next year."
What is even more remarkable is that Pickard successfully competed in the grueling 10-event decathlon this season after only starting training for the events in January. A huge help was that Ed Miller, a world-known decathlon coach and DVC graduate, is a consultant for the DVC track and field program.
"Kyle told me he thought (Pickard) could be a decathlete," said Miller, who won the 1976 NCAA decathlon title while at Cal. "What's the best way to learn a foreign language? Full immersion. That's what we did. We set the hurdles up right away. That was the first day. I remember walking over to Kyle and saying 'he could be an ok hurdler.'"
"Coach Miller phrased it as 'a great introduction to track,"' said Pickard about the decathlon. "The first sold two months was me getting introduced to track … learning technique and strengthening me. At first it sucked because I was bad at everything, but as I got better, I got more confident."
The decathlon is spread out over two days and consists of the 100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 meters, 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1,500 meters.
"It really piqued my interest because I'm not the best in one thing, but I'm pretty good in a lot of things," Pickard said.
Pickard said he practices three to four hours a day, five days a week, not including competition days. He said he basically concentrates on one running event, one throwing event and one jumping event each practice.
Miller said that the most difficult events for the decathlete to learn from the very beginning are the discus, high jump and javelin. "For a guy that has learned those three events, he is well ahead of the curve," said Miller about Pickard. "He is very bright and articulate. He is a sharp kid. … When you tell him something, he understands the physics behind it and can conceptualize it. … He has the potential to be pretty damn good."
An event Pickard enjoys is the pole vault, which can be difficult to learn.
"It's really technical, but I actually loved it. I was never afraid of it," he said.
Pickard placed sixth in his first decathlon on March 24-25 with a score of 4,861 points. At the CCCAA Northern California championship finals, he finished 11th with a personal record of 4,983 points.
As for the javelin in this week's state championships, "I really don't know what to expect as far as how I will place," Pickard said. "I know I can PR again. I know I have the potential to do pretty well."
To follow the state meet track on live stream, visit http://baosn.tv/
-- Phil Jensen