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World champion

Milwaukie's Monica Kendall proves herself the best in the U.S. and in the world
by: JOHN DENNY Milwaukie’s Monica Kendall won gold at the 2011 World Masters Athletic Championships, proving herself the best in the world in her 55-59 age division.

Milwaukie 55-year-old Monica Kendall continues to make a name for herself and for her country in track and field.

In mid-July Kendall was in Sacramento, Calif., competing in the 55- to 59-year-old division of the World Masters Athletic Championships.

And Kendall proved she still has her stuff, winning gold in the 55-59 women's shot put with an effort of 42-4-3/4, and finishing runner-up in the javelin with a throw of 123-8.

'I won [the shot put] on my last throw,' said Kendall. 'Second place was 42-2-3/4, by a woman from Moldavia [Maria Cotolupenco], which is a part of Russia.'

The 55-59 women's javelin was won by a 58-year-old woman from Long Beach, Calif. [Linda Cohn], whose winning effort was 127-7.

'My ruptured disc has been acting up and I can't hold the javelin like I would like to,' Kendall says.

The World Masters was truly a worldwide event. There were 21 participants in Kendall's age division and they came from all around the world. Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, India, Mexico, Armenia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Romania, Great Britain, Russia and the U.S. were all represented.

So what does finishing No. 1 in head-to-head competition with the best in the world mean to Kendall?

'It's my first World Masters,' said Kendall. 'So it feels really good, just because a lot of times I didn't know how I really stood.

'With all of us competing at the same venue, under the same conditions and with the same judges doing the measuring, it means I really am right up there with the best in the world….

'It was fun meeting all those really neat people I had known about, but never met. It was a great experience. I would like to do it again….'

The high placings at the 2011 World Masters are not Kendall's first claim to fame.

Earlier this year she set a 55-59 American age-group record for the shot put, launching the iron ball 42-11-1/2 at a May 14 meet in Eugene. She shattered the old mark, which was 40-5, set by Joanne Grissom of Indiana in 1993.

And five years ago Kendall set American 50-54 age-group records in the women's shot put (48-1) and in the javelin (143-0). Those records still stand today.

'At the time we thought I had a world [age-group] record in the javelin, but a German women beat me by one centimeter,' Kendall says.

Kendall's success in track and field began in her youth. In 1974, while attending Beaverton High School, Kendall won state in the javelin with a throw of 139-11.

'At the time it was the second-best mark in the nation,' Kendall recalls.

Kendall went on to compete in track and field and volleyball at Portland State University and at San Diego State, advancing to national championships eight times between the two sports. She placed fifth in the nation in the javelin as a junior at Portland State.

After college, there was a long dry spell during which Kendall did not compete. It was when she had children and they became active in track and field in the late 90's that she learned about the U.S.T.F. masters program, and she decided to return to competition to see what she could do.

She traveled to Eugene to compete in the NIKE World Masters Games in 1998. Competing in the 40 to 44-year-old division, she placed first in the shot put and second in the javelin. And the competitive fire was rekindled.

In 2004 she set American masters records for the 45 to 49-year-old division in both the javelin (136-4) and shot put (42-1-1/2).

Kendall's accomplishments are all the more impressive, because she is basically self-taught.

'I've really never had much training,' she says. 'I'm a book-reader. I pretty much taught myself from reading books and from watching others to see what they were doing….

'And I met some key people at Portland State, like [Olympic gold medalist] Mac Wilkins. I still use some of what he taught me today.'

Kendall says of her future goals: 'I would like to break the American record in the javelin and shot put again.'

And she adds, 'I see athletes in their 80's and 90's still competing [at master's meets]. It's pretty inspiring. I would hope that I can continue to compete for a long, long time.'

If her body holds up, expect to hear a lot from Monica Kendall for years to come. She's a competitor, and she'll have a lot more time to train.

Kendall retired from 30 years of teaching physical education at Milwaukie's Riverside Elementary School at the end of the 2010-2011 school year, and one of her two children will be away at college for the first time this fall.

Kendall says that in preparation for the 2011 World Masters she was only able to lift weights once a week and throw once every two weeks, because of teaching school, family commitments and a nagging hamstring injury.

'Family will always come first for me,' Kendall says.