During the medal ceremony two years ago as he was being crowned a state champion, Brandon Bach remembers the contrast being particularly evident between himself and some of the other javelin throwers.
Even from his perch atop the state podium, the 5-foot-7 Mountlake Terrace standout still was shorter than his fellow medalists on the second- and third-place steps.
“People don’t expect a little dude like me to be throwing as far as I do,” he said.
Being considerably smaller than some of his competitors isn’t uncommon for Bach. Yet despite his smaller frame, the senior is one of the nation’s best at hurling a spear.
Bach’s season-best mark of 191 feet, 6 inches currently ranks eighth in the country among high school javelin throwers, according to athletic.net. That mark also is the best in the state, regardless of classification.
“Some things are just natural, and that’s what’s come with him,” Mountlake Terrace track and field coach Russ Vincent said. “His speed, his agility, his quickness — all those things and the natural ability to put the elements together (are) almost uncoachable. … He’s just a natural.”
Bach, who won the Class 2A state crown two years ago and placed third in state last season, combats his lack of size with speed, strength, technique and exceptional rhythm.
“He has a tremendous rhythm in his run, and that’s one of the things that’s so hard to coach in the javelin,” said Fred Luke, a former Olympic javelin thrower who has helped coach Bach on occasion. “It’s very difficult, (and) he seems to have just a natural feel for it. And once you get that rhythm, the timing and the leverage that you can apply to the throw is really significant.”
“Rhythm in a javelin thrower is very important,” Vincent added, “as you’ve gotta come down (and) take the speed that you have on the runway and be able to put it together in your final three steps. And he does that very nicely — under control and then nice acceleration on the finish.”
When Bach joined the Mountlake Terrace track and field team as a freshman, he thought he’d primarily be a sprinter. But after attempting the javelin and catching his coach’s eye, Bach quickly developed an affinity for the event and made it his primary focus.
“When you see somebody come out and be able to throw a spear straight with natural flight, you go, ‘(We) might have something here,’” Vincent said. “And then as we started working with him, putting a few things together, it flowed.”
After throwing a season-best 160-6 as a freshman, Bach made significant strides as a sophomore, improving his top mark by more than 28 feet. He capped the season with a state title, launching a winning throw of 187-10.
“It’s still kind of surreal to me to think that I actually did that,” he said. “… I did not expect to go that far at all, at least for my sophomore year.”
Bach credited his improvement to working with both Vincent and Luke, who were standout throwers at the University of Washington. Vincent was a two-time All-American shot putter, and Luke was an Olympic javelin thrower who placed eighth at the 1972 Summer Games.
Luke, an Archbishop Murphy assistant coach and longtime friend of Vincent, first noticed Bach during a meet when Bach was a sophomore. Since then, the former Olympian has occasionally worked and shared pointers with Bach.
“Not many people get to do that,” Bach said of training with a former Olympian. “… He’s been super helpful.”
Bach continued to improve last season, bettering his previous top mark with a personal-best 196-1 in the district meet. He wasn’t quite able to replicate that during the following week’s state championships, where he placed third behind a pair of throwers who hit personal bests.
“It’s tough sometimes to back up your lifetime best with a lifetime best the very next week,” Vincent said. “We just couldn’t hit one that day. … We were a little short, but third (place), that’s not too bad.”
Bach, a standout football player who showcased his athleticism and versatility while playing numerous positions for the Mountlake Terrace team, has spent the past six months recovering from a foot injury. Near the end of this past football season, he broke a sesamoid bone in his foot while leaping to catch a pass.
“When I came back down, I ended up landing on the other player’s foot,” he said. “It basically just bent my toe backward and snapped the bone that’s at the bottom.”
Bach said he spent 10 weeks in a boot and that his foot is still in the process of healing. The injury has kept him from competing in sprinting and jumping events, but he said it hasn’t had much impact on throwing the javelin.
“When I throw, it doesn’t really affect my foot, because it’s not the foot that I plant on,” he said.
Bach certainly hasn’t shown any ill effects from the injury thus far, throwing 184-7 in the season-opening meet before posting 191-6 last week. Through two meets, he’s already within 5 feet of his personal best.
Vincent said he’s hopeful Bach can keep building on his strong start as he continues to get healthier and hone his technique.
“We’re taking him along slow,” Vincent said. “Maybe (in the) middle of April we might get that approach back another 15 or 20 feet. We’re going to take him along at the right pace so that in May, when it all counts, we’re going to be healthy and accelerating on up.
“It’s going to be fun to see,” he added. “I just hope we can just keep on progressing. And if things go right, I think he’s capable of going to (the 210s). This event, sometimes it flies and it just keeps on flying.”