Eldred Henry The Div. II Big Shot

Findlay junior Eldred Henry won his Nationals with the first Div. II 70-footer ever. (DAVID BUCK)

THE BIGGEST SURPRISE at the NCAA Div. II Championships came when shot putter Eldred Henry let loose a mighty 70-5¼ (21.47). Any one of the Findlay junior’s four fair throws would have held up for the win, but on his third attempt he launched the big one, adding more than 2ft to his best.

“I knew it was big,” says Henry, “but I didn’t know it was that big.” Still, he says he’s not completely surprised, given his recent practice sessions. “We did a lot of preparation work going into this meet, trying to get ready to get the big one off,” he explains, adding, the Division II Championships, to me, was just a test to see where I’m at currently in training. And of course, I’ve gotta represent for the school, make them look good, you know? Get a few records.”

Now 24, Henry represents the British Virgin Islands’ best hope for a high international placing. He has been breaking the national record in the event since he started out as a high school senior. The journey began when he was hitchhiking his way home from school, and the man who picked him up started asking him if he was involved in any sports like basketball, given his 6-5 (1.96) frame (a frame that now packs a whopping 397lb/180kg).

“I told him, ‘No, I don’t do any type of sport.’ He told me that I should look into track & field. With my build and size, if I worked hard to train, I could travel the world. “So I thought about it a little bit and gave it a shot and ended up loving it along the way.”

Henry’s path first took him to Central Arizona JC, where he won the ’15 national title with his 61-1½ (18.63). He hit a best of 65-7½ (20.00) in his third year of throwing. He made it to the Rio Olympics, where didn’t advance out of the qualifying round. Then injury struck his throwing hand in ’17: hyperextended middle and index fingers. His progress slowed. “Before I got to Findlay,” he says, “that kind of set me back. Since I came here, I’ve been able to stay healthy and get stronger in the weightroom. I’m a lot stronger now than I was when I first arrived. To be honest, we really haven’t made a lot of technical changes. It was just trying to be more consistent because I had a good comeback year last year.” The progress has come fast, with national titles indoors and out: “My strength, combined with good technique, has resulted in some good throws.”

Next, he’s focused on carrying his momentum to Doha for the World Championships, now that he’s made the standard. “I’m the only one throwing the senior implement now in my country, so I’m guaranteed to make the team.”

Post-nationals Henry headed to New Mexico to train. With a big summer ahead of him, he’s waiting to decide whether he will return to Findlay for his senior year. He says, “I’ll try to focus on one task at a time and go from there.” For now, though, he is just having fun. “I know nothing comes overnight, it’s all a process that you have to go through. Basically I’m just getting started. I get to travel the world and meet a lot of different people. And then plus, who doesn’t like seeing heavy balls go flying?”