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Hopkins wins national javelin title

by: submitted photo, Lakeridge javelin thrower Andrea Hopkins poses with the first-place medal she recently won at the national Junior Olympics track meet in California. Hopkins had four career-best throws during the meet, including a winning effort of 146-3.

For a while, Kay Hopkins questioned whether she was being a good mother when she allowed her daughter, Andrea, to compete in an all-star basketball tournament at the same time she was entered in the national Junior Olympic track and field championships.

To some people, it might have seemed that Andrea Hopkins was spreading herself too thin. Maybe more, if not all, of her focus should have been placed on the Junior Olympics, where Andrea was competing in the javelin.

'I was wondering what kind of parent I was for not having her better prepared,' Kay Hopkins said after she hurriedly drove her daughter from a basketball tournament in San Diego to the Junior Olympics in Walnut, Calif., which was two hours away.

'But somehow it all worked out.'

To say that things worked out is putting it mildly. Andrea Hopkins not only mastered the sporting version of multi-tasking, she also captured a national javelin championship for her 16-and-under age group. And then she rushed back to San Diego to finish her basketball tournament.

Because of her busy schedule, the younger Hopkins said she never really had a chance to get nervous about the javelin competition. That lack of stress may have been one of the contributing factors to her winning effort.

'I kind of went out there like it was just another meet,' she said.

Feeling as relaxed as she could have been, considering the circumstances, Hopkins managed to uncork the four best throws of her lifetime during the national meet, which was held two weeks ago.

Hopkins entered the meet with a previous career best of 141-10. It was a mark she had set early during this year's high school season and then never really threatened that mark again until two weeks ago.

But, on her first throw of the national competition, Hopkins eclipsed her PR by two inches. Two throws later she unleashed a toss of 142-2. Then there was a 143-3 heave on her fifth attempt.

All three of those earlier throws would have been enough to win the meet. But Hopkins saved her best effort for last when she delivered a throw of 146-3. That beat the second-place finisher by nearly eight feet.

'Everything just fell into place. It was just all clicking that day … but I also had a lot of adrenaline going,' Hopkins said of her championship effort.

The national title culminated what had become a personal dual between Hopkins and Alyssa Hasslen of McMinnville.

Hopkins won the state Junior Olympic meet, but Hasslen had the lead until the Lakeridge star came up with the meet's best throw on her final attempt. Then, Hasslen got her revenge when she edged out Hopkins to win the regional title in a meet that was held in Seattle.

As luck would have, Hopkins was also competing in a basketball tournament that same week in Seattle. Fortunately, that tournament ended two days before her javelin competition began, but there wasn't a lot of time to practice for the regional meet.

'She was really just trying to fit in the javelin,' Andrea's mother said.

Even though the scheduling between basketball and track was much tighter in California, Hopkins said she felt as though she was in a zone at the national meet. Not only did she beat Hasslen, who finished fifth, but she was clearly the star of the field.

Hopkins had performed so well, even better than expected, that it was hard to comprehend to magnitude of her achievement.

'I don't think it's really sunk in yet,' she said after returning from California. 'But it wasn't really a mind-blowing experience like I expected it to be.'

Going into the meet, Hopkins said she wasn't aiming at the national title. She was simply trying to establish a new personal record, a feat she had been chasing since early spring.

'I was trying all year to get back to that,' she said.

Then, at the national meet, Hopkins said her form felt perfect, and 'everything felt really easy.'

With her latest success in the javelin, one might think that Hopkins would turn more of her attention to that event. In time, that could be the case. For now, though, it will be impossible to pull her away from basketball.

'Once I get closer to college, maybe I'll focus more on the jav … but basketball is more fun right now,' she said.

Plus, 'I've played (that sport) since I could walk, so dropping basketball is out of the question,' she added.

Hopkins, who spent most of her sophomore basketball season on the Lakeridge junior varsity team, said she likes that sport 'because every game is different' and brings new challenges.

Hopkins will admit, though, that winning the national title gave her more confidence when she returned to San Diego to finish up that tournament with her Oregon Elite team, which was coached by Lake Oswego's Gary Lavender. Immediately after returning from the track meet, Hopkins said she played her best game of the basketball tourney.

Despite her recent roundball success, Hopkins agrees that the javelin is still her best sport. After winning the national title, she now has two simple goals for next year.

'I really want to get to 150 (feet) by the end of the year … and I'd really like to get one win over (West Linn's) Ali Super,' she said.

The two have competed against each other several times over the last few years, both locally and nationally, and Super has been nearly impossible to beat, including winning the state high school championship each of the last two years.

'She's a really fun kid and I love throwing against her,' Hopkins of Super, who has now become a good friend. 'It's amazing to watch her throw.'

People will probably be saying that about Hopkins before long.