May 14, 2009
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It's probably a good thing for Lobo Lee Emanuel that when Anthony Fairbanks first walked onto the Highland High track seven years ago that the first thing Fairbanks saw wasn't somebody running a mile. Or Fairbanks might be pressing Emanuel as New Mexico's long-distance ace.
OK, we're kidding here. Actually, Fairbanks isn't into the running part of track. "I don't like to run much at all," said the talented Lobo senior, whose specialty is throwing the javelin. And that is the missile Fairbanks saw rocketing across a blue New Mexico sky when Highland High track coach Gary Sanchez dragged Fairbanks out of a basketball gym and introduced the strong Hornet to the sport of track.
"Coach Sanchez was trying to talk me into going out for track after basketball season was over," said Fairbanks. "We were walking up this ramp leading to the track and you can't really see the track as you are going up the ramp. Then all of a sudden I see this javelin go flying by and I thought it looked pretty cool. I could always throw things pretty far. So I decided to give it a try.
"I ran the 400, too. I really didn't like to run, but coach Sanchez kept telling me, `You have to run. This is track.` I was better with the javelin."
It wasn't exactly that a Highland High star was born that day on the Hornet track. Actually, Fairbanks starred in football, basketball and track at Highland. He even toyed with the idea of walking onto the Lobo football team to play with Highland buds Ian Clark and Phillip Harrison. Fairbanks is pretty sure it was Clark who threw the javelin that got Fairbanks' attention that long-ago day at Highland.
But Fairbanks' scholarship offer from UNM was to throw the spear and that's what Fairbanks has been doing better than any Lobo except one.
The UNM senior is No. 2 on the Lobos' career best list at 224 feet, 11 inches. Which also is the Mountain West Conference record -- a mark that did not hand Fairbanks a MWC title. Something that tugs at Fairbanks' gut.
Who: Anthony Fairbanks
Honors: All-MWC, two-time all-Midwest region
High School: Highland High
It appeared Fairbanks had paid his javelin dues and was due for a MWC title in 2008. He had the lead throw in the final go at 220-11. Then TCU's Joe Brown stepped up on his last heave and threw the spear further than he had thrown it in two years: 221-7. Fairbanks was a bridesmaid by eight inches.
"It was kind of a weird ending," said the 6-foot Lobo. "I threw and everyone was cheering for me and it looked like I had it. Then he (Brown) steps up and threw and nobody cheered or got excited or anything, so I thought I still had it. But he pulled it out."
Fairbanks has the best throw in the MWC this season heading into Saturday's event at the MWC Championships in Laramie, Wyo. So, is Fairbanks due in 2009?
"My past seasons I would open up with really great throws and then kind of go down," he said. "This year I'm trying to build on my throws and peak at the right time. I have the best throw by about four feet, but I`ll just have to see what happens."
Fairbanks did a good job of peaking last week when UTEP All-American Alex van der Merwe came to the Great Friends of UNM Track to hand out a beating to his friend from New Mexico. It was van der Merwe who took the beating.
"It was fun. It felt good to beat him," said Fairbanks. "He's a good friend of mine. We text each other during the season. Before he came up, he texted me and said get ready for a repeat of last year's meet when he beat me. He's a great thrower, but I got him. It`s a great confidence booster going into conference."
Fairbanks unleashed a season-best heave of 219-1 (66.78 meters) on his fifth attempt during the 19th Don Kirby Memorial Invitational to beat van der Merwe.
He is hoping for another season's best up in Laramie while hoping that some other MWC thrower doesn't launch a career best. Fairbanks says he's pumped for the event and plans to be even more pumped on Saturday.
"I like to get pumped up before I throw, get a feel of adrenaline going," he said. "I like to get the crowd involved. If I'm not pumped, I don't seem to do as well."
Fairbanks doesn't need a MWC title to advance to NCAA Regionals. He already has qualified. His goal at regionals is to finish top five and be guaranteed a spot in the NCAA finals.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner