Track and Field

Kalispell’s Evan Todd Completes Full-circle Journey Setting Montana Javelin Record

The 2019 Glacier High School graduate threw 234 feet, 4 inches to set the UM school record as he prepares to defend his Big Sky Conference title

By Frank Gogola for 406mtsports.com
Montana senior Evan Todd competes in the javelin during the Montana Open track and field meet at Dornblaser Stadium on Friday, April 19, 2024. | BEN ALLAN SMITH, Missoulian

MISSOULA — Evan Todd knew he had put some serious power into his javelin throw when he raised his head back up and saw the spear still fishtailing through the crosswinds on Friday afternoon at Dornblaser Field.

The Montana senior let out a yell of “yeah man, let’s go,” while the javelin continued fluttering through the air. As it landed, he pumped his fists while jumping back and continued on with a “come on, let’s go,” as he walked over to throws coach John Kolb to slap hands and bump chests.

The silence settled in among the onlookers for several seconds before the measurement call was announced. His teammates had gathered around him in that time and then showered him with hugs and cheers when the distance was read out at 71.45 meters (234 feet, 4 inches).

Todd had just set the school record in the javelin, the latest achievement for the two-time Big Sky champion in the event. It was quite the poetic moment for the Kalispell native and Glacier grad, coming in the final home meet of his college career and with his family in attendance.

“I’ve been waiting on this day ever since I walked in the doors at UM,” he said. “I’ve had that school record in the back of my head. I was like, ‘I’m going to be a school record holder one day.’ Today was the day. Finally got it done.”

Evan Todd throws a UM school record in the javelin on April 19, 2024. 

Todd was prepared to lay it all on the line in his last home meet at the Montana Open, which featured UM and several NAIA schools. However, there was debate with his coaches during the week if he even needed to throw at the meet, where he’d be a heavy favorite.

He was already planning to skip UM’s last home meet on May 4 because the Big Sky championships start a few days later. That made Friday his last chance to compete in Missoula as a Griz, and the coaches permitted him three throws instead of the typical six.

Todd and his coaches also felt he still had an even bigger throw in him after he hit 70 meters for the first time in his career last week. He had been stuck on a previous personal record in the high 60s for nearly two years. Overcoming that mental barrier had been an uplifting feeling.

“You can do so much more than your brain tells you, you can,” he said. “Sometimes you got to shut your brain off and let your body do the thinking.”

Throwing the javelin and representing his home state are two things Todd takes pride in.

He has a tattoo on his right bicep that reads “throw it,” a saying he had with his father, who was his youth baseball coach. The phrase fits well with everything Todd has done, whether it was throwing the baseball as a pitcher, the football as a quarterback or the javelin as a track and field athlete.

Todd also sports a tattoo of the state of Montana on the back of his right shoulder. He had drawn up a sketch with coordinates of his childhood home as well as elk antlers and a fly fishing pole, which are two of his favorite hobbies. His older brother, Shelton Todd, got the same tattoo, he said.

He had followed his older brother’s footsteps to get into javelin in high school. Shelton went on to compete at Sacramento State and Montana in the 2010s, placing as high as 11th at the Big Sky championships.

“He’s my biggest role model growing up,” Evan said. “I just wanted to do everything that I could to be like him.”

Todd won the State AA championship in javelin as a junior in 2018 and was second as a senior. However, his time competing in track and field would be delayed with the Grizzlies. His freshman season in the spring of 2020 was canceled by the pandemic.

I’ve been waiting on this day ever since I walked in the doors at UM

Evan Todd

He returned in 2021 with a strong first impression, taking fourth place at the Big Sky championships and 26th at regionals. He improved both those his sophomore year, winning the Big Sky title and bumping up to 25th at regionals.

“That COVID year really kind of put a damper on things in the moment,” he said. “I thought it was like the end of the world. Kind of just was like mad, hanging my head about track. It was good to come back and get back on track.”

In 2023, Todd had to adapt to a new coaching staff after already winning a Big Sky title before that. He bought into Kolb, his new throws coach, and the two of them worked together to best utilize his powerful build.

His focus has been on creating a sturdier base and lower javelin angle at the end of his approach. He’s tried to be more tedious, technical and deliberate in practice. It’s a different look than his freshman season, when he felt he went full speed and ended up flailing his body on his throws.

The mental aspect is where Kolb has seen Todd make the biggest strides in their two years working together. He had to learn that just because he’s not hitting PRs every meet it doesn’t mean he’s not improving.

“He is just a competitor,” Kolb said. “Whether the crowd has 100,000 people in it or nobody’s watching, he just loves throwing the jav the same way I loved throwing the discus. He’s not doing it for me. He’s not doing it for the fans or for a scholarship. He’s out here doing it because he loves chucking spears.

“Those are your best athletes, the ones that are out here because they love it. They’re not out here because it makes them famous. They’re out here because it’s just fun.”

Todd’s desire to be a Griz and his willingness to accept new coaching were the first two things head coach Doug Fraley noticed about Todd when he took over the program last season. He then got to see his star thrower in action.

Todd went on to repeat as Big Sky champion and place 19th at regionals last year. This year, he’s recorded a new personal record twice and broke the program record set in 2019 by Jensen Lillquist.

He’ll try to win a third crown at this year’s Big Sky championships from May 8-11 in Bozeman, which would make him the first Griz to 3-peat in any event since 1988. He’ll also look to qualify for regionals for the fourth year in a row and then attempt to advance to nationals.

“He has a lot of passion for the event that drives him to great heights,” Fraley said. “The thing about Evan is you see consistency. Some athletes are up and down with their effort and focus. Evan is straight across the board.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s fall training in September or getting ready for the Big Sky meet, he’s locked in for the whole training year and competition season. That puts him a level above a lot of other people just because he can sustain his focus through the entire year.”