By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (May 26, 2011) – Lars Tenglin was no better than average at throwing the javelin while on his high school track team. “I had no technique. I just went out there and threw,” he says. His best effort was 147 feet, which was okay, but nothing to brag about.
During his freshman year on the North Park University team, he began the difficult process of learning new techniques and breaking bad habits. By the end of the year he had increased his distance to 177 feet, an astonishing 30-foot improvement.
He went home to Attleboro, Massachusetts, and showed his former coach the improvement. “His eyes bugged out,” recalls Tenglin.
There will be a lot of eyes on Tenglin this weekend. He is favored to win the NCAA Division III Championship. His throw in recent competition of 221’4” is roughly two feet farther than the second best in Division III this year.
If he holds true to form, the recently graduated history major and Academic All-American would become the first North Parker to capture the javelin title. The championship competition will take place on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. The javelin competition is slated for Saturday.
This is Tenglin’s third trip to nationals. An average thrower his freshman year, he captured the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) title as a sophomore, the first time a North Park athlete has been conference champion since 1962. Despite making the national tournament, he had to drop out after one throw, however, due to tendinitis.
Tenglin dominated the CCIW in his junior year and earned All-American honors when he took fourth in nationals. This year, he became the first North Park javelin thrower to capture the CCIW title for a third consecutive time. He also has the farthest distance in the history of the CCIW and is the first North Park National qualifier in the event.
His accomplishments are all the more remarkable because he never had a javelin coach in high school and had to adjust to three different coaches in four years at North Park.
“I just took different coaches’ perspectives and combined them,” he says. “I watched a lot of video and went to a lot of meets to see what else I could pick up.”
He adds, “You can’t control your coaching situation. You can control your attitude.”
Current track and field coach Skip Stolley says, “Lars loves to compete and is a ‘big meet thrower’ who always seems to do his best in our most important competitions.”
Tenglin, whose family attends Attleboro Covenant Church, says his competitive spirit has propelled his progress. “I was never the biggest guy out there,” he explains. “You don’t have to be the strongest guy out there. You just have to be the person with the biggest heart.”
That attitude has helped him to order his priorities. “It’s not a matter of accolades and awards,” he says. “It’s a matter of setting goals and reaching them.”
Even he is surprised by the success, however. Tenglin is emphatic when he says “no way” as a high school student did he ever imagine throwing so far. He will keep working to increase that distance after nationals. His next goal is to make the 2012 Olympic team.
There’s another Tenglin who also has been showing promise in the javelin. His sister, Kasja, broke her high school’s record.
Tenglin’s parents are Jim and Lisa Tenglin. Jim was a swimmer at North Park. The younger Tenglin’s grandfather, Paul Sparrman, is a retired Evangelical Covenant Church pastor. His grandmother, Gunnie, has roots that reach back to the founding members of the Attleboro church.