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DailyTidings.com
  • TRACK AND FIELD

    Ashland's All-American (javelin) girl

    Ashland javelin thrower Kelsey McKelvey places seventh at Junior Olympics
  • Kelsey McKelvey's dream is to take her javelin talents to college, ideally an NCAA Division I school.
    The Ashland High incoming senior probably made that dream a little more plausible Sunday, when she placed seventh in the javelin to earn All-American honors at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics in Humble, Texas.
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  • Kelsey McKelvey's dream is to take her javelin talents to college, ideally an NCAA Division I school.
    The Ashland High incoming senior probably made that dream a little more plausible Sunday, when she placed seventh in the javelin to earn All-American honors at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics in Humble, Texas.
    McKelvey, who placed 10th in her best event at the OSAA Class 5A state meet in May, uncorked a 37.79-meter throw — that's 123 feet, 11 inches — on her second attempt at Turner Stadium to earn a spot in the eight-girl finals, leaving most of the field of 50 behind in the 17-18 age division. She couldn't top that mark in her final three attempts and was passed up by two fellow competitors on their final throws, but the best throw of McKelvey's summer season was still good enough for a spot on the podium, an All-American T-shirt and a shiny medal.
    "I thought that if I performed to what my ability is I knew that I could be in there," McKelvey said of her All-American hopes at nationals.
    McKelvey clinched All-American honors by qualifying for the finals, improving on a first throw that sailed 34.76 meters. It was an exhale moment for a girl that didn't pick up her first javelin until her freshman year of high school.
    "I was just unbelievably happy because I was like, 'I'm an All American'," she said. "I didn't PR — I still stuck with 123-11 and I was bummed. I really wish I could have improved because I got injured at the end of the (high school) season and I wanted a good mark to start sending off to colleges and stuff. But I was OK with it."
    McKelvey's performance in Texas capped a whirlwind five-week stretch during which she placed second in a state meet at Willamette University in Salem, fourth at a regional meet in Washington state, and, sandwiched in between, flew to Phoenix, Ariz., to play in a club volleyball tournament.
    "I haven't been home for more than a couple days in the last month and a half," she said.
    The trek to Humble, Texas, began Thursday, when McKelvey and her mom, Diane, drove across the state to catch a red-eye flight out of Portland. They touched down in Houston the following day, then McKelvey had a day and a half to soak in the atmosphere and lock in mentally before it was time to perform.
    "It was hot, very humid," she said. "The air is thick, which makes it really hard to throw."
    Adding to the challenge was a Junior Olympics rule that prohibits competitors from using their own javelin. The meet provides the javelins, and the size that McKelvey usually throws is slightly smaller than the one she used in Texas.
    Still, McKelvey's confidence remained high.
    "I was kind of aware that the Pacific Northwest is probably one of the best regions in the country for throwers in general, so the fact that I got fourth (at regionals) "¦," she said. "I knew there were three people ahead of me that beat me (at regionals), and that there would be a few more that are at my level or above. I knew I was going to be in the last flight, where the real competition was going to be, then I got told that if you make the finals you're All-American. So I really wanted to make the finals. I didn't just want to make three throws and then leave."
    Knowing that she was potentially one great throw away from becoming an All-American may have provided McKelvey with a critical boost.
    "I started getting a little nervous," she said. "I typically don't get nervous for meets, but I think that helped."
    McKelvey's best throw still stood as the fifth-best of the meet heading into the final round, but Madelyn Sirmon and Jza-Quashia Chavis made the most of their last chances, going 39.30 and 39.12 meters, respectively, to pass up McKelvey.
    The All-American march to the podium was a special moment for McKelvey. Each competitor walked out before a good-sized crowd of track fans and stood there as the PA announcer boomed their name and hometown over the loudspeakers.
    "It was cool," she said. "I had no real expectations. This was my first year going, so I didn't know how it all works. It was just nice being able to represent Oregon and our tiny little town."
    Now, McKelvey is free to enjoy something she hasn't had for about two months: free time. She has two weeks off before volleyball practice begins. Between now and then, McKelvey plans to lay low.
    But her spectacular run to the Junior Olympics has McKelvey considering her future in a new light. Encouraged by her uncle, Chris Vogel, who coaches javelin for a track club in Spokane, Wash., McKelvey has her sights set on competing at the next level.
    "The way my uncle explains it, 'You're going to come back a whole new athlete, have eyes on bigger things than state,'" McKelvey said. "Honestly, I just want to throw. I want to improve. I'd love to go to school for it. It makes me more excited."
    Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-776-4469 or jzavala@dailytidings.com.
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