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Jensen shoots to top of javelin list

Prep Notebook

Have you ever met someone who has shot in the 70s a couple of weeks into their golfing career?

Or rolled a 300 on their third trip to the bowling lanes?

Or run a 10K in 35 minutes during their first road run?

North Medford's Stephanie Jensen is just such an athlete.

— Four meets into her track and field career, the North Medford High junior launched the javelin a school-record 124 feet, 4 inches at the Centennial Invitational.

Jensen had played softball during the spring and summer months since the sixth grade and was in the dugout last season when the Black Tornado won the Class 4A state championship.

But Jensen probably wouldn't have been able to crack North Medford's starting lineup this season and decided she'd been on the diamond long enough.

She was thinking about remaining idle this spring but decided to give track a try after huddling with head coach Mark Hodges.

When you see a good athlete like Stephanie roaming around, you'd be crazy not to recruit her, Hodges says. She's a strong, athletic kid and she's obviously a quick learner.

But Hodges admits that Jensen ' who had never seen a javelin, let alone thrown one prior to April ' has picked up the sport more quickly than he had thought possible.

You just don't expect someone to walk out there and break the school record in one month, Hodges says. But the javelin coaches (George Wheeler and Mark Eaton) knew after her first practice that she was going to be a good one.

Jensen threw the spear 100 feet when the Tornado opened its season on April — against Phoenix. A week later she improved to 110-6 at a meet in Eagle Point, hit another lifetime best of 118-6 at the Crater Classic on April 19 and then reached 124-4 at the Centennial Invitational on April 26.

The following Saturday, at the Grants Pass Rotary, she extended her school-record and lifetime best to 124-8.

The meets have been fun and the other girls on the team have just been awesome, Jensen says.

Jensen is tough on herself in practice, seeking to improve her form and distance each time out. That doesn't always happen, of course, but her bad days have yet to come in a meet.

I seem to throw my best during the meets, she says. I think it's the adrenalin rush. I get pumped up and just let it fly.

But I do get frustrated in practice. I'm kind of a perfectionist, and the technique is tough to get down. There's a lot more to it than just muscling it out there.

Jensen's main goals this spring are to win the Southern Oregon Conference district meet on May 24 in Ashland and then place in the top eight at the Class 4A state meet the following week in Eugene.

Her PR of 124-8 would have placed her sixth at last year's state meet.

This year's state leader is Mallory Webb of Newberg, who has thrown 154-4. Webb's teammate, Rachel Yurkovich, has gone 145-10 and Lauren Sexton of Forest Grove has thrown 141-10.

Although Jensen's main sport right now is volleyball ' she's a starting middle for the Black Tornado ' she's not ruling out pursuing the javelin in college.

I'm hoping to throw 150 feet by next year, she says.

Such a toss wouldn't surprise Hodges.

She's just scratching the surface right now, he says. She's got some natural development in her hips because of all the softball she's played, and if she gets in the weight room and improves her strength, there's no telling how far she could throw.

WHILE JENSEN'S 124-8 throw is a North Medford school record, it's nowhere near the all-time Medford High Black Tornado best of 163-2, set by Julie Vobora in 1981.

However, the event changed last year when throwers began using what's known as an international javelin. The new spear doesn't travel as far and was implemented for safety reasons.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail