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Ex-Lobo, Pan Am Gold Medalist Quist Tries Javelin Again at Age 70

By Glen Rosales
For the Journal
    For more than 40 years, Buster Quist's javelin gathered dust— a lot of it.
    But an old friend convinced the former University of New Mexico star to return to the sport again.
    "Jamie Koch, who's head of the UNM board of regents, told me that I should pick up the javelin again and compete in masters events," Quist said. "Masters track and field is big all over the world."
    Returning to competition was not as easy as simply dusting off the old gear and winging the javelin again for Quist, who recently turned 70.
    Since he retired from competition in 1964 after failing in his bid to make the U.S. Olympic team, the equipment underwent a revolution.
    "It's all new spears," Quist said. "Everything changed. Like with any new technology, the equipment has gotten stronger and lighter."
    And it doesn't fly as far.
    Although he's lived in Phoenix the past 30-some years, he still has ties to Albuquerque. He was in town this weekend for his brother-in-law's retirement party, and he decided to participate in the New Mexico Games track and field competition Sunday. Quist was one of more than 500 athletes ages 5 to 90 who competed.
    It was something of a full circle for Quist as he looked over at nearby Milne Stadium from the javelin field.
    "Milne is where I first threw the javelin in high school," the Albuquerque High graduate said. "It was in 1952. Coach (Pete) McDavid said he heard I could throw a baseball 300 feet, so he told me I should be throwing a javelin."
    That led Quist to UNM, where played football and threw the javelin. He became so good that he went undefeated in Skyline Conference meets. In 1959, he won the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Chicago.
    "I remember it very well," he said. "It was a cold and windy day at Soldier Field. I threw it 231 feet. I was the only one in the world to beat record holder Al Cantello that year. It was a big upset."
    Quist was not as fortunate in his attempts to make the Olympic team.
    Ranked second in the country in 1960, he launched three throws, any one of which would have been good enough to get him to the finals.
    "Two of my throws were ruled flat and the other one was out of bounds," he said. "I'd never had a throw ruled flat before."
    In 1964, after being out of college for four years, he spent a chunk of time training.
    "I was in the best shape of my life," Quist said. "On my last practice throw, I threw it 260 feet. On my first throw, I tore my Achilles' tendon. I still threw, but it hurt like hell, and it was over."
    Nowadays, Quist has more modest goals, even though he has won his age group at every meet he's entered.
    "It's the good old days at UNM," Quist said. "I'm beating guys by 20 feet or more."
    That trend continued Sunday as he took gold in the 70-74 age division with a toss of 117 feet, 10 inches. His goal was 120 feet since the event was held on a grass field. To help his footing, Quist pulled out a gas-powered trimmer and mowed the grass almost down to the dirt.
    "We shouldn't be throwing on grass," he explained.
    With proper footing and increased training, Quist said he'd like to get an age-group record that currently is 139 feet.
    "I'm still working on my technique," he said. "Right now, I muscle it out there, which you're not supposed to do. You're supposed to float it out there."