Ethan Dabbs

Virginia freshman Ethan Dabbs opened the meet with a freshman record in the javelin.

Richland High School graduate and University of Virginia freshman Ethan Dabbs broke the Atlantic Coast Conference Track and Field Outdoor Championship Meet record with a javelin throw of 76.4 meters (249-6 feet) on Thursday. 

“I can’t remember the last time I competed at any sports competition and was healthy,” Dabbs said when reached by telephone. “This is the first time I’ve been healthy and at the top of my game. 

“My senior year in high school I was coming off ACL surgery. The year before that I had a strained muscle. The year before that I had back problems. 

“Now, I train year-round. I’m healthy. I was able to show the potential I have. It has been bottled up last couple of years.”

Dabbs broke the University of Virginia record and the ACC Championship mark with his first throw of the competition held at Lannigan Field on the Charlottesville, Virginia, campus.

Dabbs topped his previous career-best throw of 71.31 meters (233-11 feet) and produced the meet’s top throw by more than 16 feet. The throw ranks third in the NCAA this season.

“I’m ranked third in the nation with this throw, but I’m also ranked third in the Eastern Region,” Dabbs said. “The region is really competitive.”

Next up for Dabbs will be regional competition with a spot in the NCAA Division I championships at stake.

Dabbs credits Cavaliers assistant coach Martin Maric for helping him adjust to college competition.

“My coach is a former Olympian. He’s the best,” Dabbs said of Maric, who represented Croatia throwing the discus in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. 

“The whole environment he created and the guys he recruited have all meshed together.”

Dabbs hasn’t declared a major yet, but he said he’s also adapted to the study routine.

“Classes here are very hard but that’s the persona of the university,” Dabbs said. “It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.”

While it might appear that he’s made a quick transition with the Cavaliers track and field program, Dabbs said a lot of hard work went into making his freshman season a success so far.

“I wouldn’t say it’s been done quickly,” Dabbs said. “With it just being a year, it may seem quick to people, but I’ve been training for the last seven months for the two-month season I have.

“Once I got here, we got right to lifting. We got right into training. It’s been a grind for sure, but obviously it’s paid off really well. Hopefully there is more to come. I don’t think I’m done progressing.”

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.