Waterville’s Nick Danner celebrates after winning in the javelin event with a state record throw during the Class B state track meet June 1, 2013 in Bath. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file photo

Nick Danner had long been into track and field, beginning as a youngster.

But as he grew, and grew, and grew some more, it became quickly apparent that Danner had a special ability to throw the javelin.

At Waterville Senior High School, Danner reached the pinnacle when he set a state record at the 2013 Class B state championships with a throw of 192 feet, 9 inches. In comparison, the runner-up finisher, Spruce Mountain’s Alwayne Uter, had a throw of 166-7. Danner would then eventually compete at the University of Rhode Island, where he became a four-time Atlantic 10 champion.

Danner said he first grew interested in track when he was very young.

“I was throwing javelin since I was 6 years old,” Danner said. “I don’t think anyone knew that. I was a part of the (Waterville Parks & Recreation) summer track program that Wendy Serbent had coached for years. That was kind of my real start, from 6 years old until (finishing) at 22.”

By eighth grade, Danner was blossoming with his throws, and made an immediate impact on his soon-to-be high school coach, Ian Wilson, by nearly hitting him on a throw.

“The javelin went whizzing right by my ear some 150 feet away from me,” Wilson told the Morning Sentinel in 2013. “He had this smirk on his face. We knew then he was really good. We knew he had the chance to be really special.”

That moment was the first time Danner met Wilson.

“I was kind of embarrassed,” Danner said. “I was just trying to throw it far. I didn’t really know how to throw a real javelin at the time, I had just been used to the turbo (javelin). I was as surprised to him that it came that close.”

Sure enough, Danner got his high school career off to a strong start, finishing fourth in the javelin at the 2010 Class B meet at Windham High School. Danner’s throwing, and confidence, took a large leap forward in 2012. He won the Class B title in the javelin with a throw of 177-7. But it was his performance at the Glenn D. Loucks Games in White Plains, New York that stands out the most to Danner.

“I had been struggling throwing 160, 170, 175 (feet), and I never got through anything,” Danner said. “Something just clicked at the Loucks Games, and I threw 190 feet, and I broke their record there. That was pretty special, because their record hadn’t been broken in a long time. It was my first travel meet with the team. That was a really special moment. I always think of that moment being one of my favorite track and field moments.”

Waterville’s Nick Stowe, left, hands off the baton to teammate Nick Danner for the final leg of the 4×100 meter relay during the 2013 KVAC track meet in Bath. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file photo

Danner’s official throw was 190-2, breaking the previous mark of 188-8.

By Danner’s senior year in 2013, he was on top of his game. At the Class B meet in Bath, Danner threw a record-smashing distance of 192-9. The previous Class B record at the time was 179-1, set by Ryan Staples of Leavitt. Danner would also win the state title in the shot put that year, helping to secure a Class B boys title for the Purple Panthers.

“(The feeling) was just kind of elation, like ‘Finally,'” Danner said. “I had thrown 190 feet at the Loucks Games and I had broken the state record a few times (at earlier meets), but you have to do it at the state meet. I knew that going in, I had been to the state meet four times. I was pretty relaxed and calm. I had won the shot put that day. I had fouled out on (discus). That was a little bit of a bummer, but I kind of said ‘Alright, just because I fouled out on disc doesn’t mean I can’t break the state record anyway. I’m not going to be remembered for fouling out, I’m going to be remembered if I break this record.’ That was a seize the moment type of thing for me.”

Riding high off his state performance, Danner moved on to college at URI, making a tremendous jump in competition.

Nick Danner

“I didn’t have a great fall semester (freshman year). Every college kid kind of enters that first semester at school and goes, ‘Am I really supposed to do this? Is this what it’s like?'” Danner said. “I pulled it together. I got an angry note from my dad, saying ‘this is not the best you can do; you can do so much better than this.’ I turned everything around and I really buckled down with sports and in the classroom.”

Danner was up for the challenge his freshman season. He finished first in the event at the UConn Invitational, with a throw of 60.10 meters (over 197 feet), and eventually won the Atlantic 10 conference championship with a throw of 67.52 meters (221-5). He would go on to defend his A-10 titles in his sophomore and junior seasons.

Danner was dealt a blow, on and off the track, his senior year in 2017. He suffered an arm injury that prevented him from throwing. At home, Danner’s father, Russell, was also dealing with Stage 4 cancer.

“We didn’t know what was going on,” Danner said. “Luckily, he’s doing really well. His bones are actually healing now. Kind of dealing with that, and I had a little bit of an injury in my bicep. I had a torn labrum. I had thrown at (the University of New Hampshire) the first meet of the year and had kind of messed myself up. But I think ego got in the way, too, because I was like ‘I can do this no matter what, it doesn’t matter how much training I do, I’ll throw 200 feet again.’ It was a mental battle between throwing badly in the javelin and having my dad diagnosed with cancer. Those were two things that, my world was kind of coming apart. That’s what I attribute to having those down years.”

Danner returned to full form for a fifth season in 2018 and finished his college career strong, finishing first at the Holy Cross Classic, and once again winning the A-10 championship with a throw of 63.44 meters (208-1).

“That (season) was everything to me,” Danner said. “I think what my coach told me afterwards, only five athletes in the A-10 have ever won their event four years in a row. So that was pretty special. Another driving factor was, we had a great javelin thrower come on to the team from New Jersey, Greg McManus. He threw 72 meters (236 feet) on his first collegiate throw, ever. He was fourth in the country at the time, and that was my redshirt year. I just wanted to beat him. I was like, ‘Alright, I have two years now to try to beat this kid on my team and get my title back.'”

Today, Nick Danner works for Peter G. Hill Designs in Newport, Rhode Island, helping to find antique stone that can be used by landscape architects. Photo provided by Nick Danner

Danner graduated URI with a degree in landscape architecture. He had a job as a superintendent with a landscape construction company for three years, before deciding to make a change last year during the pandemic. By chance, Danner found a job with Peter G. Hill Designs in Newport, Rhode Island, helping find antique stone for home, property and architecture projects.

“I was kind of looking for something new,” Danner said. “I was looking for antique sandstone for a landscaping project in Newport, Rhode Island. They told me I needed to go over to this guy’s stone yard and see if they had anything that matched their existing stone. I went over to his stone yard, and I just see this 77-year old man, working in the beating sun during the summertime, working a forklift. I was like, ‘Oh man, this guy needs some help.’ I asked him if he needed any side help, something on the weekends. He said he wasn’t looking for anything part-time, but was looking for a full-time assistant to help him out.

“We sell antique bluestone and sandstone,” Danner said. “We like to try to collect antique pieces of stone that we see as beautiful pieces of art, and then sell it to landscape architects who want to install it on their clients properties.”

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