The following article on Army javelin thrower Kevin Kumlien was written by Mike Kiefer and appeared in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on March 27, 2008.
Kevin Kumlien’s junior year won’t resemble that of a lot of Division I athletes. But he thinks this might be the first summer when he won’t lose 30 pounds. Instead of slogging through the South Carolina heat or jumping out of airplanes at airborne school in Fort Benning, Ga., Kumlien will stay on campus: the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. But first thing’s first: the track and field season. The Bozeman High graduate finished first in the javelin in the Black Knights’ first meet last weekend. With all the seriousness at the Academy, Kumlien’s time as an athlete, with the workouts, meets and travel, seems almost like a vacation. He talked to the Chronicle about his upcoming season, the tradeoffs between athletics and being a cadet, and challenges ahead.
On the differences between a Black Knight and other college athletes
There’s plusses and minuses to it. When you’re here, we can only leave so many times a semester. There’s no partying, so we don’t have that. There’s no distractions. But, during the summertime, when most athletes would be lifting weights and eating six times a day, I’m jumping out of airplanes or running basic training down in Jacksonville, S.C.
On the short track season
At this spring break meet, you have that feeling of going downstairs on Christmas morning and seeing all the presents. We’ve been in the fieldhouse all winter, throwing miniature turbo javelins and weight lifting. It makes it easier to train because you know how exciting it is to go and throw outside.
On the nation’s oldest rivalry
We only have two home meets, this upcoming weekend and the Army-Navy dual. Navy’s everything. When you talk about the season, if you don’t beat Navy, you can chalk it up to a loss. I think that it’s more intense (than ’Cat-Griz). We eat, sleep, and breathe “Beat Navy.” Every officer that you pass, you salute and say “Beat Navy,” then they repeat that back to you. They write it on top of the buildings here.
On goals for the season
I want to make regionals, and that’s not too auspicious. My main goal is to break 220 (feet). I opened up the season with 193. My best last season is a 201. I’m a junior now. I’m starting to get the hang of the academy. I’m not the one taking the trash out in the morning. There’s a little less stress in my life. My coach is one of the best in the U.S. and in the world. I feel extremely confident in knowing what I need to do. It’s just about bringing it all together on the right day.
On how Kumlien life differs from a cadet’s
I’d say that it’s similar because every cadet is an athlete. It’s required that every cadet play a sport. When I come down to practice, the regular cadets are going to their intramurals. We all have the same training in the summer. I get to get out of here and go train and compete. I don’t play any other sports. Just the javelin all year long. Track is a definitely a lot more serious when you get out of high school. For me, it was just my high school Spanish teacher, Mr. (Steve) Schwab told me, hey, you have long arms, you should throw javelin.’
On this summer
This summer is actually my lightest summer. I’m going to be a company commander for STAP (Summer Training Academic Program). I’ll be in charge of a company of cadets. We have three requirements. You have to do a training school. I did airborne school. Then there’s Basic Cadet Leadership Training, Cadet Leadership Training... I acted as a drill sergeant for an Army basic training. We also run a detail here at the STAP program. So I’ll be here on campus. Hopefully this will be my one summer when I don’t lose 30 pounds.
On life at the Academy in war-time
You definitely get reminded every now and then. At breakfast, people are just waiting around, hoping that they don’t announce, “We regret to inform you that this person from the Class of 2000 passed away last night.” I just got an E-mail from Brandon Woerth, who brought me up in the javelin. He wanted to congratulate me on the meet, and then he told me that he’s going to Alaska-slash-Iraq for the next three years. It brings it home.
Mike Kiefer is a sports writer for the Daily Chronicle in Bozeman, Mont.