After making a lot of noise in the hammer and 35-pound weight throw for the LSU track and field team the past three years, Walter Henning’s career ended quietly last week.
Still, Henning did enough before that to make sure he won’t soon be forgotten as perhaps the most successful thrower in school history.
Even though his career ended with a third place in the hammer at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Henning claimed three national titles at LSU — including a dramatic victory on his final attempt in the hammer a year ago.
But when he made one final attempt to pull out a win in the sixth and final round of the hammer last week, the magic wasn’t there — which is one of the reasons he’s decided to not pursue a professional career.
It seems like it would’ve been easy for Henning to chase a dream of making the World Championships or Olympic Games, especially after winning three NCAA titles and the 2008 World Junior Championships crown.
Then again, it’s not that simple.
U.S. hammer throwers have won just three Olympic medals in the past 78 years — and only one was gold. No American has ever won a medal in the World Championships, which will be held for the 13th time this summer.
So, it was an easy decision for the 22-year-old Henning, who began throwing the 16-pound hammer in 2002, to “retire” and get on with his life rather than chase a dream for 10, 12 or 15 years.
“If I was throwing farther, it would be something else,” said Henning, whose personal best of 239 feet, 5 inches came in winning the NCAA title last year. “But (239 feet) isn’t going to do anything on the world stage.”
The fact he struggled this season, reaching the 220-foot mark in just three of seven meets, merely validated a decision he made last fall.
It was affirmed this season when he didn’t come close to the World Championships’ “A” qualifying standard of 255-11.
“I’m not willing to put in another 10 years, or even five years to try and get to the 2016 Olympics,” he said. “I think this is the best decision for me, and I’m standing by it. If this was football with some gargantuan salary, it might be different.
“I’m sure I’ll be disappointed with it at one point in my life, but I’m excited about moving on to the next part,” a smiling Henning said. “I’m still trying to find out what normal people do on a regular basis. Hopefully, I’ll figure that out pretty soon.”
Henning, however, already has a plan to get on with his life — which is how he put it.
After working in the oil fields for the next couple of months to earn some money, he’ll begin to go through the process of becoming a law enforcement officer somewhere in Texas — perhaps with the state police.
“I’m ready to get into the workplace and get a badge so I can start helping people,” he said. “That’s what I’m really looking forward to.”