Ben Chretien and his favorite javelin Bertha. (Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, June 21, 2012 10:27 AM
The moment Ben Chretien laid his eyes on her, it was love at first sight.
“I was like, ‘This just feels right,’” Chretien recalls of his first meeting with Bertha.
Sounds like your everyday, run-of-the-mill love story.
“From the moment he picked her up,” said Chretien’s coach, Kemuel Morales, “he knew that was it.”
Bertha isn’t Chretien’s girlfriend, by the way. She’s his favorite javelin.
Together they are on their way to the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., in an attempt to turn their relationship into love at long flight.
It’s already been a wildly successful relationship.
Bertha, also known as Bertita, was the one flying 245 feet, 5 inches through the air at the NCAA Championships earlier this month to set a McNeese State record and place Chretien fifth in the nation.
The throw also has Chretien on his way toward a shot at representing the United States in the Olympic Games in London.
“It’s what you dream of since you put your mind to it that you’re going to do track as a collegiate athlete,” Chretien said. “It’s one step closer to the ultimate goal to go to the Olympics.”
It took the throw of Chretien’s life to get him this far, and it will take another to make it to London. The Olympic qualifying standard is to finish in the top three at the trials, or a throw of 269 feet or longer.
Chretien enters the event ranked 12th, and most of the throwers he is up against have already started their pro careers. He knows it’s a long shot.
“I’m going to do everything I did to get to this point and then some. Hopefully I’ll just rise to the occasion,” he said. “I’m going to be around professional athletes, some of the best javelin throwers in the country. I want to be able to say I competed with the best and wasn’t just out there for the experience. I don’t want to let myself down or anybody else.”
It’ll certainly help to have Bertha at his side.
The javelin, painted in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold, helped Chretien capture the Southland Conference title with a distance of 234-11.
However, a bend in the javelin made it ineligible for use in the NCAA East Regional at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
That did not prevent Chretien from advancing to nationals, though it was with a shorter toss of 226-7.
Once Chretien returned to Lake Charles from Florida, Bertha was put back into action with the help of former Cowboy javelin thrower Bobby Barnes, who acted as something of a Javelin Whisperer.
“He was behind the bushes (at the track complex) and you just see the tail end of the javelin in the air. We didn’t know what he was doing, but he has some technique (for fixing them),” Chretien said. “But it checked into nationals, and that’s all she wrote.”
The vast majority of the population who has never thrown a javelin may be perplexed as to how an athlete can grow so attached to it.
After all, no quarterback has a specific favorite football.
Even Chretien has a hard time describing it.
“The grip kind of goes with the way I like to grip it. But I don’t know. It’s chemistry,” he said. “You can’t explain.”
Support from humans goes even further than a trusted javelin.
Chretien said his mother has always encouraged him to make the Olympics a career goal.
“She knew the first step was the trials and felt I wasn’t giving my all towards the beginning of my collegiate career,” Chretien said. “She felt by the start of my senior year I could be at this moment. Moms make you feel about 10 times better than you actually are.”
Chretien said Morales, McNeese’s throwing coach, put him on the right training regimen to peak at the end of the season.
Though the Olympics are his goal, Chretien said he can live with not making it this time around.
The opportunity to train professionally while adding to his experience at this year’s trials figure to set him up for an even better chance in 2016.
“The pro jav throwers, they were about where I am or a little bit ahead when they were in college,” Chretien said. “But a couple years down the road they see big improvements and end up getting sponsored. I’ve got four years to the next trial, so I’m going to keep working and you’ll never know where I’ll end up.”
Morales said Chretien has shown he can make that jump by becoming an all-American after coming to the program from Class 1A Elton High.
“He walked on here. He pretty much started from scratch,” Morales said. “To work his way up to this level is impressive.”
Posted By: Charity Laughlin On: 6/27/2012
Love Love Love This! Go Ben
Posted By: Melissa LaFosse On: 6/21/2012
We are so extremely proud of you Ben! You have earned this from all of your hard work and dedication! Good luck! Go Benjamin Joel!!!