PROVO Sophomore Leif Arrhenius has been back from his LDS Church mission for less then nine months, but his impact on this year's Mountain West Conference champion BYU men's track and field team has been anything but expected.
Sure, Arrhenius won multiple state championships as a thrower while in high school, and in 2005 he had a successful freshman season. But two years in Taiwan away from a weight room can be tough on the guys who rely on strength for their events.
"I have surprised myself to be at the point I am at this early after getting back," said Arrhenius. "It has been hard because my body has gone through a lot of changes and I have been injured, a little, by trying to get back into shape."
Last week, Arrhenius won the discus, shot put and finished second in the hammer throw at the MWC Championships. He owns the longest discus throw in the country this year entering the NCAA Regionals this weekend.
Now as the Cougars get ready for the NCAA Regionals on May 30-31, Arrhenius, who currently owns the longest discus throw in the country this season, just wants to keep progressing as he gets closer to one of his goals.
"If I could win NCAA's this year, that would be great, but it would be nice to win a couple while I am here," said Arrhenius. "Then I would like to make a run at the World Championship team next year and hopefully the Olympics in four years."
Athleticism runs in the family for Arrhenius. His brothers, Dan and Niklas, were both multiple state champs in high school and went on to compete at BYU. While Leif isn't quite ready to crown himself as the best Arrhenius of the bunch, he is not ruling it out, either.
"I don't know if it is good genes or just our dad pushing us hard, but it has been fun to compete as a family," said Arrhenius. "I think it is too early to tell, a lot can happen in a couple years, but I would like to equal the marks that my brothers have done in discus and get up to them in shot."
Arrhenius qualified for regionals in all three of his throwing events, but he will only compete in the discus as he tries to focus on that and then improve his shot put and hammer throws over the off-season.
The athletes that have qualified for regionals are now trying to get healthy as they prepare for the upcoming regionals.
BYU men's head coach Mark Robison says he feels confident about how the Cougars' team stacks up as they head into the pivotal part of the season.
"This is the fun part of the season," Robison said. "They have trained hard and prepared very well, so now they just have to rest up and take advantage of their opportunity."BYU will be well represented at regionals, with 23 members of the men's team and 15 from the women's team having qualified to compete in the meet. Those that advance past regionals will then compete in the NCAA Outdoor Championships June 11-14 at Des Moines, Iowa.
WOMEN: Tawnee Bybee, distance; Jenna Jensen, distance; Amy Fowler Layne, distance; Cecily Lemmon, distance; Sandra Mazan, hurdles; Katie Palmer, middle distance; Angela Petersen, distance; Carlee Clark-Platt, middle distance; Carolyn Quebe, distance; Stacy Slight, middle distance; Angela Wagner, middle distance; Nicole Rasmussen, hurdles; Piret Kuresson, javelin; Sarah Lancaster, javelin; Ashley McAllister, pole vault.
MEN: Leif Arrhenius, throws, Sean Richardson, throws, Kyle Baker, throws, Chase Dalton, decathlon, Bryce Bergen, jumps, Chandler Goodwin, distance, Keith Jensen, middle distance, Kyle Perry, distance, Bryan Payne, hurdles & sprints, Matt Weirich, pole vault, Whitney Neves, pole vault; Jacob Gustafsson, distance; Derek Taylor, distance; Tyrel Jensen, distance; Stephan Shay, distance; Chris Little, jumps; Robert Low, pole vault; Daniel Lawson, throws; Ryan Merriman, distance; Curtis Carr, distance; Winston Wilkinson, throws; Dustin Lawrensen, throws; Richard Nelson, distance.