Troubled athlete changes course
Javelin thrower gets a better grip this year on his sport and his life
Daniel Brant wants his mom to know he's safe. He just doesn't want her to know he lives in Portland or that he's re-enrolled at Franklin High, from which he dropped out in November.
He is holding out these key facts because of an unorthodox, sort of prankish rationale:
'I want to see my mom's face when I graduate,' he says with a grin from the Southwest Portland apartment he shares with one of his stepfather's colleagues.
'I got so much grief about how I was a loser when I dropped out, I want to be able to come back and show her what I can do.
'I still visit my family on weekends sometimes, but I'm happier that they don't know where I am after I leave. It has a lot to do with space. I just need more space.'
Brant leads the state in the javelin this season, having thrown the new, shorter-distance javelin 204 feet, 6 inches in his school's first meet.
Brant's throw stands as the national best this season, according to Track and Field News.
Franklin track and field coach Dan Kendig says he sometimes is amazed at what Brant, a senior who will turn 19 this week, has been able to accomplish in spite of his personal life Ñ which includes a year of probation, anger management classes and expulsion.
'I think if he stopped to think about what he's been through, he wouldn't be able to move,' Kendig says. 'Maybe he just doesn't think about it.'
Brant certainly doesn't seem to dwell on his past. With the promise of youth flowing through his veins and a virtually rent-free apartment to keep him out of the wind, he thinks mostly about what he will do in the next two months and how he will celebrate on graduation day.
'That's going to be a great day for me,' he says, 'because it'll kind of be a miracle that I will graduate.'
His mother, Teressa Brant, says she has been following her son's track season, but she did not want to comment further about his situation.
Brant, who is 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, didn't start throwing the javelin until last year, but he progressed quickly enough to win the district title with a school-record throw of 196-10. He split open a finger on that throw, though, and finished a disappointing ninth at the state meet the next week.
He picked up this season where he left off and has thrown past 190 feet in two meets, including his 204-6.
High school athletes are using a new javelin this season. The new spear has a center of balance moved toward the tip, making it harder to throw. But the change actually might help Brant.
'I'm not really that flexible, but that's good with the new javelin,' he says. 'This javelin is one you can really arm out there because it's not so based on technique Ñ as long as you have the release point right. If you throw it too high or too low, it really drops fast. The older javelin kind of corrected itself more.'
Brant's personality Ñ the part that doesn't back down from a challenge Ñ earned him plenty of correction during his days at Franklin.
As a freshman, he was stabbed protecting a girlfriend from skinheads. His retaliation involved waving a gun, which led to a year of probation and anger management classes. Last year, he was expelled for a time for his involvement in a fight.
In November, he moved to Olympia with his stepfather, Randy Davidson, who is a co-owner of National Chimney, an Olympia-based company that repairs and rebuilds chimneys and roofs. Brant works for the company on weekends.
Brant says he left Franklin because of issues at school and at home, where he lived with his mother and three brothers.
'I knew I was in trouble. My world was just so small, and I figured I had a way out,' he says. 'Moving away solved everything.'
In January, he became motivated to earn his diploma and compete for the track team. And because National Chimney had work in Portland, he had a place to stay.
Brant lives with Cliff Brand, one of the company's three owners. Brand says Brant is a model employee, often supervising older workers.
To remain eligible for the first half of the track season, he needed to make up six weeks of class work in one week's time. He did.
He hopes that the success of his last two years will earn him a scholarship at a college with a track program.
Have all of his brushes with authority prepared him for an adult life without such troubles?
'I think I'm a better person through all this,' Brant says. 'I feel lucky to be alive in some respects. And I think I'm a helpful person. I taught anger management classes after I went through them, at least until last year, and I'm always helping other javelin throwers at meets, just like my coaches help me.'
Brant, who is competing despite a sprained left knee, says he thinks less about winning the state title in the javelin than he does about graduating Ñ something his girlfriend, a senior at Franklin, encourages him to stay focused on.
Brant says he will invite his family to his graduation. And he hopes they will come.
'There are things I miss by not living at home, like talking to my mom about the school record I just set,' he says. 'But I'm happier now where I am.'