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Throwing Injuries Aside

Track & Field's Nick Sweeney

By John B. Roberts

This year, he could finally cut loose.

Nick Sweeney, the burly Irishman with the scars on his knee and memories of a back brace etched in his brain, uncoiled at the Heptagonal Championships on May 4 in Princeton, N.J. for a stunning 189'8" toss.

The Dublin, Ireland native's single throw met five goals at once. Sweeney's competitors were left in a fight for second place, more than 17 feet back. The 56-year-old competition had a new record--by a healthy margin of four feet. The Lowell House thrower also captured his second Heps discus title two years after winning his first crown.

Above all, Sweeney set a new Irish national record and qualified for the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore.

"It was an amazing throw," Harvard men's track Captain John Mee says. "I knew he had it in him, and it all came out at once."

When the Irishman matriculated at Harvard in 1987, he was already viewed as a top prospect. He joined the Crimson because he shared a coach with then-Captain James Russell, who threw the hammer.

His early years, however, would be marked by visits to the trainer's room, not the discus circle. After knee surgery his first year, Sweeney erupted to win his first Heps title in the spring of 1989, his sophomore year.

Everyone, especially Sweeney, expected more of the same. The thrower met and exceeded those expectations, but he had to wait until this year. He fractured some vertebrae after his sophomore season, and spent the next 18 months in rehabilitation.

Mee remembers always seeing Sweeney in the training room. For the entire academic year, the Irishman had to wear a back brace which rose all the way up to his armpits.

Sweeney took a leave of absence in the fall of 1990 to complete his rehabilitation, and will not graduate with the Class of '91. Because he missed the entire 1989-1990 season, Sweeney is eligible to complete an extra year, so he should be tossing the discus for the Crimson next fall.

Judging from his triumphant return--undefeated in dual competition, winner of the Greater Boston Championships and the IC4A's--Sweeney's final year promises to be even more remarkable.

In his concluding competition this year, the NCAA's, Sweeney must finish in the top six to gain All-America honors. His Heps throw was sixth in the country at the time, so he may be right on course.

If he can show the rest of the collegiate track and field world what he has already shown on the East coast, Sweeney may join the ranks of Harvard All-Americans

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