Bright-blue skies, upper-70-degree temperatures, a light breeze, mom and dad and a batch of friends in attendance :
"It doesn't get any better than this," former Kansas University track standout Scott Russell said Friday, beaming after winning the Kansas Relays javelin in a meet-record 258-feet, 2-inches.
He outdistanced University of Arkansas senior and former Baldwin High standout Eric Brown, the country's No. 1-rated collegiate thrower and two-time All-American who had a personal-best heave of 256-3 while also competing in front of a horde of family and friends.
Russell, a 27-year-old track-and-field professional who was wearing a white Canadian national team jersey with a maple leaf flag emblazoned on his chest, said fan support was a key to winning Friday.
"It's awesome. Being out of school and working the last couple of years, I have got connections at Haskell (where he works as athletic trainer) and a ton of people around Lawrence all saying, 'What time do you compete Friday?''' the 6-foot-9, 270-pound Russell said. "It's an awesome feeling having the home crowd. I can't explain it.
"It was great having my parents here. I talked 'em into coming down (from Windsor, Ontario). I said, 'It's Kansas Relays weekend; there's a lot going on. I haven't seen you since September. Why not come see me throw?' It was fun competing with them here."
Russell's dad, Dan, had seen Scott throw at KU once before. It marked the first time mom Cheryl saw her boy in action on Mount Oread.
"We flew this time instead of making the 16-hour drive," Dan said. "It was great to see Scott throw well and see him compete against Eric. I know he (Russell) was looking forward to that."
Brown won the Relays javelin twice during his days at Baldwin High. He had not competed here before as a collegian.
"It's been four years since I'd been here. It was always my favorite high school meet," said Brown, whose sister Emily is a KU volleyball player. "I knew I wanted to come back sometime.
"This was a great day. The conditions were awesome. With the crowd here, friends and family, they helped me throw today. I probably couldn't have done it without them."
Brown, who placed third at the NCAA meet as a sophomore and fourth as a junior, is hoping to win the title this year, then compete as a professional. Russell, who placed 12th at the world championships for Canada last year, will be traveling to three Grand Prix meets next month in Brazil.
"I need a couple of more meters to really break into the international scene," Brown said. "Hopefully, I'll get it this season."
He said it was a thrill competing against Russell, who actually tutored Brown a bit when he was in high school.
"I remember watching Scott when he first started," Brown said. "I've been trying to emulate him since I was in high school. I wanted to beat him, but couldn't ask for anything else."
"Oh, gosh," Russell said, informed of Brown's compliments. "Eric is so much younger than me, I've never had a lot of chances to compete against him. When he was in high school and I was in college, at the Kansas Relays I'd come out to help him. He's really a good athlete and person."
Brown graduates in three weeks, then will begin work on his MBA while continuing in track. Russell hopes to stick around awhile, perhaps through the 2008 Olympic Games.
"My body will let me know how long I can do it," Russell said.