Most Viewed Stories
Horsfall stakes Humboldt State track scholarship
Matt Horsfall opened the envelope and was handed a black ballpoint pen. On the top of the letter read "'Jacks," below, a place for his name. A few strokes with his right hand, a quick check of his watch to make sure he dated it correctly, and his transformation to a NCAA athlete was official.
"It's signed," he said.
The culmination of Horsfall's athletic career at Yuba College came Wednesday afternoon, in portable 3006, amid stacks of boxes and floor plans from the school's gym renovation. Two state meet appearances in the javelin led him to this point, where he could share a simple, quick moment with his mother, coach and brother as he took the next step in his athletic life: Scholarship track and field competitor at Humboldt State.
When he arrives in Arcata next semester, he'll work toward becoming a decathlete and taking over the school record for the sport at which he excels, a sport he had no interest in a couple years ago. Signing a National Letter of Intent for track?
The beginning of his transformation started during a football practice in 2010, when a coach saw him winging the pigskin 60 yards with little exertion. He'd always been an athlete, played three sports at Marysville High. Track wasn't among them. He'd never done the whole "meet" thing, never fathomed the idea of throwing an object across a field.
He played baseball during the spring and basketball in the winter. Fall was for football, and he was a wideout for Yuba College. Part of him always wanted to be a QB, though. He certainly had the arm, and it got him noticed his sophomore year.
Bob Miller is an assistant with the football team and coaches javelin for the 49ers. He saw instant potential, and started to pester the naturally athletic Horsfall. He touted the benefits of improving his flexibility, of getting in better condition for football. He also phrased his query in a way not too many teens can turn down.
"You want to come out and have some fun," he said to Horsfall, "and throw this spear around?"
The javelin which Horsfall throws is a tad over 8 feet tall and weighs 800 grams (less than 2 pounds). Even if he did compete in track in high school, he wouldn't have been able to experience this sport; it's not sanctioned in California. His only relation to the sport came from movies, where he watched spears being thrown in battle.
Horsfall felt like a Spartan, he said, and screamed like a warrior the first time he threw. Since he played center field in high school, he heeded the advice of "throwing it to home." He became hooked. Behind the parking lot, on the school's old track, as the grass and weeds rose up to knee level, Horsfall honed his abilities. His coach set out an orange construction cone 150 feet away, and his throws started to sail past.
The simplicity of javelin appealed to Horsfall, allowed him to enjoy sports without having to overthink. He and Miller would barbecue hot links during meets, chow on oodles of them at a time. They were throwers, outsiders among the sprinters and hurdlers and distance runners. They liked that.
At the meets, Horsfall met throwers and coaches from other schools, and they offered tips. He was always looking to improve, and combined the skills he learned with his work ethic toward training — he actually overworked at times, Miller said — to reach the state meet in 2010. He finished sixth with a throw of 190 feet. This past spring, he made it again.
Before every throw, Horsfall places his forehead near the base of his yellow and blue-pained javelin and reflects. He'll talk to himself. He'll ingrain in his psyche that he has the ability and drive. "You got this ... You got this," he'll say.
What he hadn't achieved up to that point, though, was a throw past 200 feet. It was a goal he desperately wanted, a goal Miller texted him about during the season. Horsfall's phone would buzz, and there was a message from coach: "Remember 200, that's the goal."
At the CCCAA Track and Field State Championships in May, he finished fourth in California, with a throw of 202 feet.
"Whooooo, I did it," he remembers saying.
Now comes the next step. Horsfall enjoys the idea of living by the coast, and the opportunities the landscape around Humboldt State will provide for his major in geology. His partial scholarship will help cover the costs.
Until then, he'll be here, working out and staying in shape. You can catch him at Training Zone in Downtown Marysville. It's Thursday, which means it's back and biceps — the self-described "beach muscle" day for future a Lumberjack.