In March, Cody Danielson left his track and field future in the hands of luck.
While driving an all-terrain vehicle, the Oregon redshirt sophomore got into a freak accident when a rope sliced off parts of two of his fingers. Half of one finger was severed, while the other fingertip barely hung on.
The injury was to his left hand. Fortunately, Danielson is a right-handed javelin thrower, but the injury still set him back.
“It totally set me back physically, but one of the biggest things was mentally,” he said. “I was out for three weeks, just not being able to do anything.”
He blames the mental setback for his slow start to this season. At both the Florida Relays and the Penn Relays, he threw around the 226-foot mark, placing fourth and fifth in the meets, respectively.
But, a week before the Pac-12 Championships, Danielson managed to get his confidence back in time to repeat his surprise win from last year. By throwing 238 feet, 10 inches on his fifth attempt, he took first place at the Oregon Twilight.
“I was pretty happy that I had that throw,” he said. “It hadn’t been going well before the Twilight meet, and now that I was able to get that throw, it really boosted my confidence.”
At last year’s Pac-12 Championships, Danielson wasn’t even supposed to compete. During his 2016 season opener at the Willie Williams Classic, he tore his labrum in his shoulder, and still won the meet with a personal record of 251 feet, 9 inches.
The injury occurred to his throwing arm and forced him to sit out for the majority of the season.
But he still wanted to participate in the conference championships, and head coach Robert Johnson reluctantly acquiesced on the condition that Danielson only throw a few times and then stop.
“He was supposed to throw just a few times and then move on,” Johnson said with a sigh. “But once you get there, and you get in and your competitive juices get flowing, then he was like, ‘Okay, let me get one more.’ ‘No, no, no let me get one more.’ And then next thing you know, he threw six throws and won the meet.”
His winning throw of 238 feet, five inches was a Husky Track record and gave the men’s team a surprise 10 points as it won the meet for the 10th year in a row. No other Pac-12 team has ever been as dominant.
The men’s team won once again this year, though Danielson did not.
After Washington senior Carson Fuller hit 244 feet on his third attempt, Danielson simply couldn’t catch up. Even though he finished as the runner-up, Danielson claimed a personal victory: a friendly competition with his brother, Trevor.
“I can’t wait to beat him,” said Cody before the meet. “I hope he throws far, but I hope I throw further.”
Trevor Danielson, a Stanford sophomore, was trailing in sixth place before his final attempt of 223 feet, 9 inches propelled him to third. But it wasn’t enough to catch his older brother, despite the trash talk leading up to the competition.
“[There was] a little bit of trash talking, a little bit of texting back and forth,” Trevor Danielson said with a laugh.
The two had made a bet that the winner of their competition would be allowed to choose the guest room in their parents’ new house. Even though Oregon’s Danielson was the victor, Trevor Danielson was happy just to compete.
“That was the first time that I got to throw at the same flight as him since high school,” he said.
The Pac-12 Championships was just the beginning of the championship season for the two brothers. They met again at the NCAA West Regionals, where the top 48 athletes in each event faced off before the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Only the top 12 qualified for the final meet.
Trevor Danielson placed 25th and didn’t make regionals, but Danielson narrowly qualified after placing 11th with a best attempt of 219 feet, 8 inches. It wasn’t a good meet for Danielson, but he had been sitting just outside a qualifying spot in 15th place before his third and final throw.
Despite his injury, Danielson made the NCAA finals, where he took seventh last year. He will have to throw better for finals, but despite the early-season setback, his confidence is growing just in time for the championships.
“I had that throw that kind of boosted my confidence, so I’m pretty excited to get back out there,” he said.
Follow Hannah Bonnie on Twitter @hbonnie03