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Roseburg's Dean overcomes injury, takes 3rd in hammer

EUGENE -- Windy Dean didn't have high expectations heading into the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Thursday at Hayward Field.

This has been a tough year for the former Roseburg High and Southern Methodist University standout. First, she had a falling out with SMU coach Dave Wollman. And then she learned two weeks ago that she has a torn rotator cuff in her right shoulder.

The injury kept Dean from competing in the javelin, in which she was a three-time NCAA champion for SMU. But it didn't keep her from participating in the hammer throw, where she placed third Thursday with a throw of 210 feet, one inch.

I'm very surprised to finish in the top three, said Dean, a 1994 graduate of Roseburg High. I won (the hammer) last year (at this meet), but things have been going so badly for me lately that I didn't really expect to do anything. I was just hoping to get past the prelims and into the finals.

Dawn Ellerbe launched a throw of 212-5 on her final attempt to win the competition, and Tamika Powell was second at 210-10.

Dean moved from Dallas, Texas, to Syracuse, N.Y., last year in order to be tutored by Candy Roberts, an assistant coach at Syracuse University who specializes in the throwing events.

Dean has gleaned a great deal of knowledge from Roberts in both the hammer and javelin, but the change in climate threw her for a loop. Then came the injury, which Dean now speculates happened at the NCAA meet last year when she launched her winning throw of 191-2.

I felt a little pop but didn't think anything of it at the time, the 22-year-old Dean said. I kept on throwing, but it got to be more and more painful and I wasn't doing very well.

Dean finally went in for an MRI two weeks ago and her worst fears were realized.

Despite finishing third in the hammer throw Thursday, Dean has yet to gain a berth in the World Championships Aug. 21-29 at Seville, Spain, because she hasn't met the qualifying mark of 213-6. If she doesn't meet the standard by mid-August, she'll likely have surgery to repair the rotator cuff.

I don't want to diminish my chances of making the Olympic team, she said, but it (surgery) is probably inevitable at some point.

Dean never threw the hammer until her sophomore year at SMU.

I got a little tired of throwing the javelin and discus at practice, and one day I asked the coach if I could try it, Dean said.

Dean heaved the implement a measly 125 feet her first time, but improved to 140 feet by the start of the 1996 track season and surpassed 190 feet by the end of it.

At this point, the hammer is clearly my best event, Dean said. I may have a future in it.