Wooden Javelin

Howard Kreps, athletic director at Columbia High School, holds a wooden javelin thrown 191-feet, 9-inches to win the 1939 Washington state title.

White Salmon High’s Lloyd Fassett became Washington’s first, three-time state javelin champion when he won the 1939 title, with the standard — at the time — wooden implement. He remains Columbia’s school recordholder at 191-feet, 9-inches — or thereabouts, depending on different accounts.

Wood javelins, along with metal ones, were used by most high school throwers at the time. Oak was preferred by many javelin manufacturers, who placed metal tips on the end. “I still have the javelin,” said Howard Kreps, who was head track and field coach at Columbia starting in 1990 (for 20 years) and remains an assistant coach along with his athletic director duties.

When Fassett was winning his titles, the United States was nervously monitoring the growing unrest in Europe. Three months after Fassett won his third state crown, Germany invaded Poland. A few days later, Britain declared war on Germany, and World War II began.

Two years later, in 1941, Fassett was in Bend, along with many other young men about his age — Sunriver was the site of a huge Army base, Fort Abbot; nearby Redmond housed an air base; and military maneuvers were conducted in the desert (in anticipation of aiding the Allied forces in Africa). The United States was less than a year away from entering World War II, but one story in the Bend Bulletin newspaper (for the week ending April 30, 1941) deemed Fassett ready.

The headline read: “Javelin decapitates bird at relay meet.” The short story noted: “If spearmen down in Africa need some help when legions of Hitler press south, Bend has a candidate: Lloyd Fassett, holder of the (Washington) state high school javelin record. Last night Fassett tossed a javelin a distance of more than 100 feet, from a standing throw, and knocked the head off a sparrow. It was all unintentional, the javelin hurler said, adding he did not aim at the little bird. The sparrow just got in the way of the spear.”

Fassett went on to fight in Europe and completed his Army mission in 1945, as noted in the Mt. Adams Sun newspaper (March 9, 1945). He remains one of only five Washington boys javelin throwers of all-time to win three successive state championships.

And for the curious, Fassett’s javelin is not for sale, but 1stDibs last week was offering two wooden javelins, circa 1950s from Karhu, Finland, for $1,844 a set (live birds not included).

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