With sweaty palms, junior Paige Hansen stepped up to the throwing circle at the Junior Olympic regionals as the announcer introduced her and all the other athletes by their state section in California in July. The crowd cheered wildly for Hansen as she stepped forward, waving to her proud parents in the stands before getting into her starting throwing position.
Hansen participates in both javelin and discus, which involves building up momentum to throw a javelin or discus as far as possible. Hansen has participated in three Junior Olympics (J.O.) and is practicing for her third J.O. which will be held in Kansas later this year.
At school, Hansen throws discus for the track team but not the javelin, since high schools in California do not offer it as a track event. Hansen is one of the school's top discus throwers. Her personal best for discus is 110 feet and is only and 6 feet 8 inches off the school's record.
Hansen started competing in discus when she was in seventh grade at Redwood Middle School and picked up javelin later on, at the suggestion of her track coach. She soon began training at De Anza college for the two events.
“I love the feeling when I throw a javelin or a discus,” said Hansen. “The wind blows through my hair and adrenaline rushes through me.”
Over the years, Hansen has improved her skills and won various meets through her training at De Anza, allowing her to compete at her first J.O. qualifiers in 2015 at Sacramento State University. She successfully placed second in javelin and sixth for discus.
She then advanced to the J.O. regionals in Florida that same year. Hansen had to compete against three groups of 10 to 15 girls from every state.
“I felt a little intimidated because there were so many people,” said Hansen. “But I had a really fun time with my team and it was a unforgettable experience.”
Though Hansen was unable to place during her first J.O. Regionals in Florida, she didn’t let the results discourage her.
“It was fun knowing that the work I did on my technique paid off because it got me to regionals,” said Hansen. “But I still had work to do on my run up in order to place.”
Working harder than ever, Hansen continues to train at school and at De Anza in hopes of qualifying for J.O. and placing in regionals this year.
“I am leaning towards doing track in college because I am very passionate about it, so I’m practicing as hard as I can to improve my distance,” Hansen said.