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Riverside teacher sets a world record

by: photo by JOHN DENNY, Monica Kendall

Riverside Elementary School physical education teacher Monica Kendall shatters a world Masters track and field record, launching the javelin more than 143 feet

MILWAUKIE - Monica Kendall, the physical education teacher at Riverside Elementary School for the past 25 years, walks the talk when it comes to physical fitness.

Kendall's students know this, because she frequently joins them as a participant in gym class.

'I do just about everything they do,' said Kendall.

Her students know she is fit, but few of them know that she is a world renowned athlete.

'Most of my students [don't know what I've done],' Kendall says. 'I don't like to toot my own horn. Kids would probably think I was bragging.'

Kendall does have a lot to boast about, if she chose to do so. She recently set world and American age-group records in track and field.

'It's really cool!' said Riverside third grader Taylor Bartholomew, upon learning of Kendall's accomplishments. 'Before I heard about it from my mom, I had no idea Ms. Kendall was a world record holder. I guess she wanted to keep it a secret so she wouldn't have people bugging her with signing autographs and stuff….'

'When you first meet her, she's kind of scary,' said third grader Natalie Stone. 'She's so strong. But once you get to know her, she's really nice.'

Kendall set the records earlier this month, when she traveled to Mt. Hood Community College to compete in the United States Track and Field state championship meet in Masters track and field, a worldwide program for adults 40 years of age and older.

Kendall, who is 50, launched the javelin 143 feet, 5 inches, shattering the world record in the 50 to 54-year-old women's age division. She also lofted the shot put 48-1, burying the American record for that event.

The old world record for the javelin was 136-3, set by a woman from Germany in 2002; the old American shot put record was 42-7-1/2, set way back in 1991.

Kendall, who excelled in track and field and in volleyball years ago in high school and in college, explained why she continues to compete and chase records:

'I'm very competitive. It's my nature. I'm a competitive person. I'm always striving to better myself….

'I do it to keep in shape, and to be a good role model for my own kids, and for my kids at school.

'I hope to teach the kids that if you keep working and trying, you never know what you can accomplish. You can always better yourself in whatever your doing. The main thing is you're out there trying. You're giving it the effort.'

Kendall's competitive nature paid dividends years ago, when she was a student at Beaverton High School. In 1974, she placed first at the state high-school meet in the javelin, with a toss of 139-11. At the time, it was the second-best mark in the nation for high schoolers.

She 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. When she discovered that there was a competitive program for adults, she decided to return to competition to see what she could do.

'It was an opportunity to be with my kids and to get back in shape,' said Kendall.

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.

The competitive fire of her youth 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). Her javelin record for that age division still stands today.

So what does setting a world record mean to Kendall?

'It's exciting!' Kendall says. 'I've met a personal goal. I've proven to myself I can do it.'

And Kendall added, 'It's an honor. It's kind of like I'm representing the U.S., and I've proven we're just as good as some of these other countries [who have athletes that excel in track and field]. It says, we can keep up with you.'

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

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

Kendall's training regimen in preparation for the 2006 season included working out with her students in physical education classes at Riverside, lifting weights a couple of days a week, and throwing the javelin once a week.

'When I first started throwing again, I was throwing two to three times a week, but I was always getting injured,' Kendall said.

She ruptured a disc in her neck last spring and had to undergo months of physical therapy before she could throw again.

'When she was hurt, she stopped [exercising] with us in gym class,' said Bartholomew.

Kendall is excited about the prospects of continuing to improve and set records throughout her lifetime.

'I've seen athletes in their 80's and 90's still competing [at the Master's meets],' said Kendall. 'It's pretty inspiring. I would hope that I can continue to compete for a long, long time.'

Kendall says she expects her record setting to continue as she grows older, both because there are fewer competitors and because the implements are lighter in the older age divisions.

'I don't have that much competition, but I try to beat my own records and I try to improve my personal record all the time,' said Kendall. 'I want to keep going for as long as I can. My goals right now are to get 50 feet in the shot put and 150 feet in the javelin.'

In the immediate future, she's shooting for the world record in the 50- to 54-year-old shot put. Her American record of 48-1 earlier this month was just seven inches shy of the world age-group record for that event.

Next weekend she plans to journey to Eugene to compete in the Hayward Classic. Later in the summer, it'll be the State Games; and in August, she plans to travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the U.S.T.F. Masters National Championships.

And someday she'd like to use track and field as an excuse to take a family vacation with her husband Rod and children Dakota and Sterling to travel to another country and compete in the Masters World Championships.

'My husband and my kids have been very supportive,' said Kendall. 'They know what goes into the training. I think it would be a lot of fun to travel with them to Worlds someday.'