There’s 350 feet of space in the open field where Sam Hankins lives. That’s a good thing since Hankins, a junior at Manhattan High, can throw a javelin more than 200 feet.

Hankins only has one year left of throwing javelin in high school, but his career likely will extend far beyond that. Hankins had an hour drive to the closest javelin runway — at least the proper kind with a track-style surface — until his father, Kevin, made a decision.

Kevin brought the sport to home, constructing a 140-foot-long, 8-foot-wide runway a couple yards away from the house. Hankins, who is now a three-time state champion, now gets to practice whenever he desires.

The Mercury has selected Sam Hankins as the All-Flint Hills athlete of the year for spring.

“When I first started I had no clue I’d end up going this far,” Hankins said. “Now that I’m here I look back and see all the work I’ve put in, and I don’t see why I wouldn’t be here.”

Building the runway for Hankins and his teammates wasn’t just for show, Kevin said.

The closest runway to them is in Topeka, and that one still isn’t regulation. Kevin also built a discus ring near the runway to accommodate Hankins and his teammates.

The runway gives plenty of space for someone who would be competing in the Olympics.

For Hankins, that’s a real possibility.

Hankins first threw a javelin when he was 10 years old. It was one of the little plastic ones, but he remembered loving the feeling on the first try.

He was already involved in track and field at the time, but he needed a way to get into javelin throwing.

“Back when I was in Manhattan track club I had to do three events: the shot put, discus and the 400, and I hated to run the 400,” Hankins said. “I didn’t want to run anymore so I picked up a javelin and was like ‘I’ll do this instead.’”

Hankins lights up talking about launching a javelin. He said he was quite pleased with his performance this season, but only uses it as a stepping stone. He has much bigger goals in mind when it comes to where this sport can take him.

“I’m striving for the Olympics. I like the 2024 option, “ Hankins said. “I’m really pushing for it and we’re going to see where that takes us.”

Hankins, who won the state championship in 2019 by over 10 feet, has already gained a lot in his young career. He’s gotten to travel around the country and the world as a part of being a member of the National Scholastic Athletic Foundation, including visiting Germany and The Bahamas.

However, nothing can match the feeling of a good throw.

“When I know it’s a big throw my adrenaline gets going. I love the feel. It’s a total rush,” Hankins said. “You wouldn’t expect it to be a rush but it’s a feeling you can’t get anywhere else, in my opinion.”

His journey as an athlete at Manhattan High has also led to him being a teacher. When his former coach, Tom Brosius, who passed away in January after a nine-month battle with pancreatic cancer, Hankins had to step up.

“I’ve had to kind of take over and help out coach Ryan Small at the high school to help out with javelin. I have enough information to kind of help out and give some tips. It’s been a big honor and a little switchup. I think helping them really helps me in a way, and I really love doing it.”

Hankins during the state track meet in May went around helping the other throwers with their form and technique.

Hankins said part of the preparation for competing in the Olympics is maturing, and helping his teammates is a good step, he said.

“I have to train, I have to get stronger and I have to grow as a person. The big thing is, I’ve got to go through college and train and train and train. It’s going to be non-stop if I want to get better.”