PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University’s Daniel Draper reached NCAA Division II national track and field competition last spring in javelin, and finished 11th with a throw of exactly 187 feet.
It was the school’s best place ever at the D-II national meet, although he fell five places short of scoring.
This year, Draper — known to teammates and friends as “D.J.,” short for Daniel James — is seeded sixth in the nationals, scheduled for May 26-28 at Cal State Stanislaus.
He has consistently been over 200 feet. Good thing, too, he said, because the competition is tougher this year.
“I feel pretty good,” he said. “The guys in front of me aren’t that far ahead.”
In fact, outgoing ENMU coach Eric Boll said Draper has at least an outside chance of winning it — primarily because of his consistency. He’s been over 200 feet in all but two meets this spring.
“He’s really throwing well,” Boll said. “He’s got a great amount of confidence.
“Every throw is good now; in fact, when he throws bad he throws 200 (feet).”
A redshirt junior from Moriarty, Draper said he’s worked hard on his approach to the foul line.
“I’ve changed my approach so I can get more speed at the front (of his run),” Draper said. “If I hit it right, I think I can throw one around 220.”
Draper broke the school record of exactly 200 feet, set in 2007 by Zach Gerleve, early this season. His best throw was 211-7 at the Texas Tech Open.
In high school at Moriarty, he was a two-time Class 4A state champion in the event.
“If he’s not an All-American (after nationals), it means something bad happened,” Boll said. “He’s got a good shot at being national champion.”
Draper was named the Lone Star Conference academic athlete of the year earlier this spring, and is carrying a 4.0 GPA. He was a two-time Class 4A state champion in javelin.
He almost had company at the nationals, but junior Bill Squire of Hagerman fell just short in hammer and shot put.
With his teammates done for the season, Draper is on his own in practice. Still, with a shot at a national title out there, he said it hasn’t been that hard to stay sharp.
“I’m mainly focusing on my approach,” he said. “I’m hoping to win it; my goal is to win it, but anything can happen.”