At the root of it all, Kim Hamilton is a competitor.
At the root of it all, Kim Hamilton is a competitor.
No matter what questions may come her way regarding her current pursuit, it all comes back to that basic principle.
When you have that will to succeed and drive to accept nothing less, good things can happen, and that's exactly what Hamilton has high hopes for when she returns to Oregon next week to compete in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, currently underway at Hayward Field in Eugene.
It's Hamilton's goal to earn a spot in the women's javelin for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and she's given it her all since returning to the event as a senior at Kent State University in 2009.
"If I didn't think I could do it I probably wouldn't be wasting my time or my coach's time or anyone's time, really, for the past three years," Hamilton said following a training session in Knoxville, Tenn. "I definitely feel that I can do this."
The Cave Junction native is most definitely headed in the right direction these days.
Under the direction of Bill Schmidt, who was the last U.S. male to earn an Olympic medal in the javelin with his bronze effort in 1972, Hamilton is throwing the javelin further than ever before entering the meet.
"I think I'm peaking right at the right time," said Hamilton, 26. "I really think right now I'm in the best spot I should be going into the trials next week."
One month ago at the Tucson Elite Classic in Arizona, Hamilton busted out a pair of personal bests to eventually finish second to four-time U.S. champion Kara Patterson. Hamilton's second throw went 56 meters and her ensuing effort established a personal best at 56.75 meters or 186 feet, 2 inches.
Patterson, 25, won the Tucson meet with a heave of 195-9 but boasts a PR of 218-8 as the event favorite entering the trials. Her chief challenger stands to be Rachel Yurkovich, a 25-year-old from Portland whose PR is 200-4. Patterson and Yurkovich have already eclipsed the Olympic "A" standard of 61 meters (200-1) and the real question next week likely will involve whether anyone else can lock up a trip to London by reaching the standard.
Alicia DeShasier, who won the gold medal at the Pan-Am Games in 2011, tied Hamilton for second place in Arizona and boasts a PR of 190-4, while 21-year-old Oklahoma thrower Brittany Borman is a two-time NCAA champion and has a PR of 194-11.
Hamilton has competed with all the top names expected to be on hand at Hayward Field and doesn't anticipate anything more than a regular day out at the track.
"I'm approaching it as any other event," she said. "Yes it's the Olympic Trials, but if you force anything or put added pressure on yourself, that's when things go downhill."
"Off the track we're all friends and hang out but when I'm out there, they're my competition," added Hamilton. "We're competing to be on the same team but you can only really worry about yourself and take the confidence and trust in your coaches into it and go from there."
Like Yurkovich, Hamilton will be hoping to ride the wave of being an Oregon-bred athlete into the competition and use that to her benefit in hopes of another PR.
"I have so many people who have come out telling me they're going to be there supporting me or that they're going to be cheering me on from wherever they are and that just means so much to me," she said. "This is only going to be my fourth or fifth time throwing at Hayward but it helps knowing you have so much support out there."
Qualifying in the women's javelin begins at 2:30 p.m. June 29 in Eugene, with a 12-woman finals set for 2:45 p.m. on July 1.
That Hamilton is even in the position she's in today is a testament to her sheer athleticism. The 2004 graduate of Illinois Valley High was a force on the volleyball, basketball, softball and track and field teams during her time and went on to a successful softball career at Kent State. She capped her softball career at Kent State as the school's career leader in runs scored and ranked third in home runs and stolen bases.
During her senior year at Kent State, she was ineligible to play softball because she was too far along in credits and that's when the track and field team came calling. Despite not picking up a javelin in five years, Hamilton went on to place fifth at the NCAA Championships in 2009 and earned All-American status.
That got Hamilton wondering what she could potentially achieve if she dedicated all her efforts to the javelin, and a new challenge was formed as she finished up her master's degree in sports management in 51/2 years.
"That's when I made training my full-time job," she said. "It didn't really pay the bills yet but I knew it was something I could do if I kept with it. I've always been competitive. If I can continue to be competitive in an athletic manner and stick with that, it wasn't a big decision for me to make as to whether I wanted to start a real job or continue my athletic career."
The converted center fielder has picked up random jobs over the years to help pay the bills and received tremendous support from her family and friends. Server, bartender, adjunct professor, softball coach or clinic helper, you name it and Hamilton has done it to keep her training schedule in full force.
Along the way, she's dealt with quite a few folks puzzled by her decision to stick with the javelin.
"Everyone, even my old softball teammates, are like, 'How are you still doing this?'" she said with a laugh. "But it's just something I like. The challenge now is to get on the biggest stage in the world of sports."
Besides her work with Schmidt, which included Hamilton selling off just about everything she had save her javelin and clothes and moving to Tennessee last August from Ohio, Hamilton has a perceived advantage due to her time away from the track.
"I definitely do think it was helpful because it was almost five years that I hadn't touched my javelin but, to my advantage, it's so hard on the body that it gave me a nice break," she said. "The girls that did it through high school and college, their bodies kept going through constant jarring and strain. Softball's tough, but it's not the jarring that you get throwing the javelin. Health-wise, to an extent, I have an advantage because my body's a little more fresh."
The only real downfall is the javelin is also an extremely technical specialty, and she's had to fight some muscle memory issues brought forth from years of softball. Instead of throwing down to nab a runner at the plate from center field, Hamilton has had to raise her aim and throw her arm up and through with the javelin at just the right angle.
"The biggest thing for me is the javelin is so technical that I'm constantly learning stuff every day," said Hamilton, whose sessions with Schmidt are recorded on his iPad for instant critiques. "You really have to break down to the right turn of your foot to placement of your shoulders and turning of your chest and angle of your release and stuff like that. That's what's really kept me interested and focused to continue to go and compete the way I want to."
Regardless of how things turn out next week, Hamilton said she's in it with the javelin for the long haul.
"I'm set on the (Olympic Games) this year but as long as my body will hold up, I'm going to train at least until 2016," she said.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry