Featured Thrower - Kara Patterson  

 

     

 

2010 Season  

Kara set American record in javelin (66.67M) in winning her third USA Outdoor title 

Won the Nike Prefontaine Classic and was the Diamond League runner-up

Kara Patterson brought American Javelin throwing back to the forefront and established her place on the world javelin stage.

 

Kara Patterson - Javelin AR - Video  Blog

 Video USATF AR Series - 61.42M - 62.80M - 66.67M

 

     

 

Questions from fans:

 

Where and when did you first encounter the throws and what path led you to the javelin?

Freshman year at Skyview High School in Vancouver, Washington, my math teacher (Ron Heidenreich) was the head girls' Track and Field coach, and he talked me into trying the javelin in the spring!  I tested out the sport in eighth grade and didn't find anything I loved (my events were discus, high jump, and long distance then), but this new event intrigued me.  I wanted to try something just for fun, as I was pretty serious about my other sports (swimming and basketball).  Turns out, I got pretty serious about javelin, too!  I earned second place at the State Championships freshman year (2001) with a 15-foot PR, and won each year after that.  By my senior year, it was clear that my chance at a collegiate athletic future (not to mention a great education) lay in Track and Field.

 

Who has helped or influenced you the most in your throwing career?
My high school coaches across all sports were amazingly motivating and taught me how to demand the best from myself.  Having had that seed planted at a young age and then going off to Purdue to work with Rodney Zuyderwyk was, I think, a pretty perfect combination.  Coach Zuyderwyk is extremely positive, but also infinitely challenging.  I ran and lifted more than I ever thought I would at Purdue!  Then, when I thought I maybe couldn't handle any more, he would say to me calmly, "Yes, you can," and I believed him and worked harder. My current coach, Ty Sevin, has been an enormous influence on my career.  He has taught me so much about training models and the technique of the javelin, and my new-found knowledge gave me lots of confidence to throw far consistently this year.  Without Ty, I would most definitely not be where I am after this 2010 season! The most constant positive factor in my life (not to mention throwing career) has been family.  My parents are seriously my biggest fans, and it amazes me how they are able to come watch me so far away from their busy lives!  My big brother's approval and pride in me is something I will always put incredible value in, and he gives me that a lot.  I have a boyfriend who knows what it's like to compete for a living, and being able to share that part of our lives has been extremely special; we can talk about Track and Field and understand each others' language (most of the time J ).

 

                                                                    

 

What benchmarks do you use "to know" you are ready to throw far?

Knowing I'm ready to throw far is still a concept that I'm getting used to!  I had a blast this season, as I felt physically ready to succeed, and I finally had the mental capacity to enter competitions hungry for far throws.  I don't need to throw far in practice to know that I can in a competition; I just need to have had solid technical practices.  If I feel strong in my shoulders, core and legs, am very focused on a few important technical cues, and have a laid-back, positive attitude, I know big things can happen.

 

What parts of your training (improvements) enabled your breakthrough this year?
I did more gymnastics this year than I ever have before in training.  The strength that I gained in flexible positions really got rid of nagging shoulder pain that I might have developed over the course of the season.  I threw MUCH more this year than I ever had in training before, and being able to throw outside all year long helped me to truly understand how what I was doing on the runway affected the flight of the javelin.  My javelin tip control improved immensely from past seasons.  Technically, I learned to stay behind my block better, run a little more relaxed in my approach, get to my left foot faster without pushing off of my right, keep my shoulders closed, and be stronger with my upper body through the release of the javelin.  I think I still have a long way to go technically, and I can definitely be more aggressive in all the positions mentioned above, but this year was a huge step in a very positive direction! A major factor in my success this year was the improvement of my mental game.  I worked with Dr. Ross Flowers-sports psychologist at the Olympic Training Center-consistently.  I have always set goals, but he helped me develop a clearer picture of where I wanted to be and how I would get there.  I did not want to succumb to the idea that an athlete's first year out of college is their hardest, so we decided that I simply wouldn't!  I don't think I can be called ruthless, but this year I had much less patience for myself as far as distances that I knew weren't going to cut it on the international scene.

 

What is the key to throwing the javelin far?  What are the most common mistakes you see?              

The most common mistake I see is deceleration at the end of the approach.  This causes many other mistakes, like dropping the throwing arm and causing the tip to go up, collapse of the upper body because it's no longer moving forward at the same rate it was, and releasing the javelin too far in front of the body because the thrower must force the throw.  Not accelerating all the way through a throw might be caused by the thrower's timidity (it's scary to run that fast and then just stop!) or their right leg stopping their momentum instead of moving out of the way to let the left get down. My own personal keys to throwing the javelin far are the things that I focused on when I was having trouble during competitions this season.  These were go-to cues that I knew would serve me well if I felt physically okay.  1) Keep my shoulders closed (perpendicular to the line at the front of the runway) until my left foot is down.  2) Don't even think about my right foot just before release.  In fact, pretend I don't have a right foot; just drive my right knee straight down to the ground after my impulse in order to get the left down fast.  3) Leave my throwing arm back as far as physically possible while maintaining upper body posture.  4) Be aggressive and fearless!

 

                                                                   

 

Did you have any training throws beyond your AR?
No, I didn't.  Wow, it would be amazing to throw over 66 meters in practice!  One of my training goals for this year was to throw 60 meters in practice, and I never reached it.  My best training throw was around 59.50m.  I have never been a "practice thrower."

 

Have you had major injuries?  How does one stay as free as possible from injuries (advice)?

In March of 2007, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my 5th lumbar vertebra.  I wore a Boston Overlap Brace (solid plastic circling your body from ribcage to hips) for 6 months, and I dealt with pain from it for the next two years, despite all the rehabilitation I very diligently did.  That was the first major injury I had ever experienced besides breaking my throwing arm playing mud football freshman year at Purdue (oops!).  This past February (2010), I sprained a facet, or spine joint, in the middle of my back doing over-head shotput throws at practice.  I didn't throw for 6 or 7 weeks because I had basically no extension in my back, and I was very worried that my season was in jeopardy. The best advice I can give about injuries is that "pre-habilitation" is the best route!  I do preventative core and shoulder exercises often, and if anything starts to hurt a little bit, I try to fend injuries off before they really become a problem.  We also all know that injuries are unpredictable; you can't plan when you get hurt, and things seem to get inflamed at the worst times.  When injuries do happen, stay calm and let your body heal itself, along with smart rehabilitation.  Nothing good comes from forcing yourself through pain or pretending that you're 100% when you're really not.  You can't lie to your body for very long before it shuts down altogether.  Also, rest was the most neglected aspect of training for me before this past year; it's SO important to give your body a break sometimes.

 

How have you handled setbacks?
Setbacks come for me in two forms; injuries and disappointing performances.  I bounce back fairly well from injury as soon as I start seeing improvement.  It's natural to be upset at first, but realizing that your body is very good at healing itself is pretty cool.  When I finally was able to practice again after hurting my back (both times), I took things slowly and really listened to my trainers.  Focusing on things task by task instead of worrying that I would never make it back meant that, all of a sudden, I was throwing again, and taking such joy in it.  Injuries really help you to appreciate the things you can do when you can do them again!  As soon as I'm back in the ballpark of where I was before an injury, I tend to forget about the pain that I once had and focus on the future. Disappointing performances are a little more difficult for me to get past, but so far I have learned as much as possible from each experience.  Throwing poorly at World Championships 2009 was extremely upsetting, as I had prior international experience.  However, I was super inconsistent at far distances before this year, and inconsistency won't serve anyone well in high-pressure situations!  By the end of the 2010 season, my body broke down a little bit and my training didn't last all the way through my competitions, but I still threw much farther at my biggest meets than I had at major championships in the past.  I know that I can build on that success with the experience that I gained this year coupled with training modeled around the meets that I most want to succeed at!  This season was a victory in so many ways, and I really look forward to building on it.

 

                                         

 

Who forms your support system and how do they contribute?

My friends and family are amazing.  I'm going to list some people who have been pivotal to my success so far, and I'm SO blessed that this list is long! Family: My parents, brother, grandparents, and Canadian family will always support me whether there's reason to or not!  They fiercely encourage me always, and I'm extremely lucky to have come from such a loving situation.  I also love that they keep me, me. Training partners in Chula Vista: Mike Hazle knows exactly what to say to me at practice to kick my motivation up even further and keep my mind on the next season!  Britney Henry and Becky Breisch are always good for a frustrated (but hilarious) venting session or for loud encouragement during a lift or running workout.  It's always fun to see my roommate, Becky Holliday, at practice, because she pays such attention to detail and has smart advice on everything.  Tracy Lamb (the director of the training center) and his wife Alicia are amazing; they are extremely supportive of track and field, and we couldn't have better (or more fun) administration.  Everyone at the training center has something different and awesome to offer. Coaches: Ty tells me exactly what he expects of me, but also trusts me to complete tasks on my own.  I'm extremely motivated to live up to his expectations.  He's very positive, but I really like that there are no excuses accepted for not accomplishing something when I have the capability to.  I still talk to Coach Zuyderwyk periodically, and it's really fun to be able to share my new experiences with him and hear how his work is going with his new athletes! Vancouver, WA: Every time I visit my parents I meet someone new who is following my career, and it sometimes seems like my entire hometown is behind me!  I have good friends from high school still; Erica, Jessie, Anna and Amy do an impressive job of watching me whenever possible, which I never would expect them to do, but means the world to me.  Still being able to visit with some of my old coaches and teachers is so touching; they did so much for me growing up, and their support is so important. Purdue University: It's so fun to be able to go back to Indiana and see some of my old coaches and teammates, and to visit friends who have moved away.  Emails from Boilermakers offering encouragement are treasures.  My college teammates and roommates will always be so special to me because we grew so much together!

Russ Winger: We have dated for over three years now, and known and supported each other for a year before that.  Russ watches my practices when he can, which makes it easy to talk to him about what I'm working on.  We were able to spend a lot of time together in Europe this season, and I got to travel with him to watch a few of his meets!  I love that we do so much outside of track and field also; during the year, we're at SeaWorld, the tide pools in LaJolla, the San Diego Zoo, out eating seafood, or swimming around in the waves whenever we have opportunities.  He really helps me expand my horizons and relax about javelin. The javelin community: It has been incredible to hear from younger javelin throwers, retired javelin throwers, and javelin enthusiasts that offer encouragement, advice or ask questions about throwing.  I talk to Jeff Gorski quite a bit.  Andreas Thorkildsen trained in Chula Vista this spring, and was really helpful and encouraging throughout the summer!  Meeting more of my international competitors this season was awesome, because most everyone is gracious and fun to eat meals with at meets! I know that I'm forgetting someone!  You can definitely learn something from everyone you meet.

 

What short term goals have you established?
The phrase "short term" now includes World Championships 2011, I think!  I want to medal in Daegu.  I haven't decided on a distance goal for this year yet, as I'm just beginning my little workouts to prepare for practice starting the first week of November.  It would be awesome to be top 3 in the Diamond League again (or maybe win?), and that would be a challenge because of the focus on Worlds this year.  Some of my tentative training goals are to throw 62 meters in practice, to finally be able to walk any kind of distance on my hands (my biggest frustration in life), and to improve my running mechanics drastically.  I'm really excited to be entering into my second year at the training center, because I feel that I'll get way more out of it than I did last year as the new kid.