As the outdoor track and field season began in March, LSU discus thrower Rodney Brown had a checklist ready for the three goals he’d been thinking about since his 2014 season ended with a thud last June.
The first one was to be consistent and throw 200 feet in every meet, which would make him one of the nation’s elite competitors in the event.
After that, he wanted to go undefeated in finals in his senior season.
Finally, Brown wanted to win the NCAA individual title that eluded him last season when he was 10th at nationals and didn’t even reach the finals.
So far, he’s 2-for-2.
He’s won all eight of his competitions, throwing at least 200 feet in each, with the biggest titles coming in the Texas Relays, Penn Relays and Southeastern Conference championships.
One more huge throw could help him check off the third one, the biggest of them all, which Brown hopes to do at the NCAA championships Wednesday through Saturday in Eugene, Oregon.
It would also help him avoid the despair he felt last year when he had to watch the finals at Hayward Field.
“That was the most heartbreaking moment of my career,” Brown said, “because I know I can do so much better.”
That bitter disappointment even trumped his freshman season when he fouled on all three of his attempts in his first NCAA experience after a solid prep career at Navasoto High School in Chappell Hill, Texas.
“I was young then, and I didn’t know what I was getting into,” he said.
Brown followed that with a fourth-place finish at the NCAA meet to cap his sophomore season and was one of the favorites going into last year’s meet.
But after breaking the school record that stood for 25 years in the regular season, he had a throw of 191 feet, 10 inches and two fouls at nationals.
“That motivated me a little bit this year,” Brown said. “I just told myself I could come in here and do this and make sure that last year doesn’t happen again. It was like, ‘You control it. … Do what you have to do to get to the finals.’ ”
He’s shown the ability to do that most of the season. Brown leads the NCAA with a toss of 213-5, which bettered the school record of 212-2 he set a year ago. Six of his eight winning throws have been longer than 207 feet.
It’s a rebound LSU throws coach Derek Yush never had any doubt about — mainly because of Brown’s work ethic.
“The thing I like about Rodney is he’s a very low-maintenance guy, much like (two-time NCAA hammer champion) Walter Henning,” Yush said. “The cues you give them are very general, and they feel the event as opposed to having to break every little thing down. They make corrections very well.”
Brown didn’t even need to talk to Yush when his season almost came to a disastrous end at the NCAA East preliminary rounds last week.
Brown’s first throw traveled about 60 feet less than his season’s-best and he intentionally fouled on his second one because it wasn’t good enough to get him a spot at nationals.
The problem: He was too anxious, he said, and was rushing the throws out of his hand.
Down to his final attempt, Brown unleashed a throw of 201-2 that gave him second in the prelims. Because it wasn’t a final, he remains undefeated going to nationals even though it was the last thing on his or Yush’s mind that evening.
“He took a couple of years off my life,” Yush said. “But that shows you how good he is. We’re trying to win a (team) national championship and we’ve got to have him there. He’s a big piece of the puzzle.”
While it was a scary moment, Brown will take something from that performance to Eugene and his final meet in an LSU uniform.
“If anything, it’s going to motivate me,” he said. “I was down and in a position I’ve never been in before, and I rose to the occasion and figured out a way to get the job done.”
Now, he has to do it one more time.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.