For the third straight year, junior Sarah Hendy has qualified for the NCAA Division II National Championships in the discus. With the 2008 season still young, Hendy posted a mark of 158-4 at the San Diego City Championships, March 8, easily surpassing the NCAA qualifying standard of 156-2. That throw also landed her at No. 2 on the all-time list at UC San Diego. Hendy, a graduate of Sonora Union High School in Sonora, CA (near Yosemite National Park) has improved her marks in the discus and the shot put every year at UC San Diego. Head Track & Field Coach Tony Salerno summarized saying, “Sarah has done an amazing job to get where she is now. Her hard work and discipline has made her a dramatically better athlete than when she arrived here as a freshman. It has been inspiring to watch that evolution.”
Q- At the San Diego City Championships on March 8, you had a discus throw ranked as the second farthest in school history. How did that feel? And how do you do that?
HENDY- The San Diego City Championships is one of my favorite meets- we have the advantage of competing on our home field, and it co-occurs with family day. The combination of my nervousness and the support from my family and teammates was really encouraging and helped me compete well. Hitting an automatic qualifying mark so early in the season was such a relief.
Q- In addition to the discus, you also have some great throws in the shot put, including a top ten all-time throw in UCSD history. Which event do you prefer, shot put or discus? What are the differences in training and preparation for the two events?
HENDY- I prefer the discus- I find an odd grace in it- but have a lot of respect for the athletes who can handle a shot put. Other than specific training that caters to the mechanic requirements of each event, I wouldn’t say that there are drastic differences between the two. In theory, they are equally challenging.
Q-One of your teammates and fellow throwers, Jillian Sola, has also produced great results in the discus and shot put events and is also a fellow junior. What is it like having a teammate with her ability? How do you help/push each other?
HENDY- I met Jillian at the State meet in high school when she medaled and I finished just after her, and for the past two years, we’ve consistently competed well and finished together. I feel honored and inspired to train with such an intelligent and experienced athlete. As a good competitor, she has helped me define what it means to be a part of high-caliber athletics. But she’s also made my track experience uniquely fun; she’s the kind of girl that will climb in the ice machine to make me laugh while I’m taking an ice bath and am in serious pain. She’s awesome, that one.
Q-What’s the biggest difference for you between your first day out on the track as a freshman and now in the present as a junior?
HENDY- I feel much more confident in myself as an athlete. Acclimating to collegiate-level training and competition required a lot of effort. I remember thinking, as a freshman, that I wouldn’t survive my first season; the workouts tore me up and the women I competed against were grossly intimidating. But I learned to take that experience as a challenge to change my attitude, and as a result, competing now feels as natural as breathing.
Q- Coming off of two straight seasons where you got to compete in the NCAA D-II Championships, what individual goals did you set for this season? What team goals did you set?
HENDY- After two years of competing at Nationals, I feel more than ready to fight for the Championship title. Early in the season, I oriented my personal goals around hitting an automatic qualifying mark to secure entry to the meet, and now I’m focusing on competing to win. As for the team, we generally dedicate most of our energy toward the conference championships. And this year, with so much talent and motivation, I believe it’s more than likely that UCSD can sweep the conference championship.
Q- What are you looking forward to as the season progresses both individually and from a team viewpoint?
HENDY- I’m always excited for the conference championships. UCSD track and field has proved to be a powerful and talented team, and I’m anticipating the highly competitive air at the conference meet to encourage great achievements, on both the individual and team levels. I’ve really enjoyed watching all of my teammates succeed, and can’t wait to see what they can accomplish at the peak of the season.
Q- Describe some of your favorite memories involving track and field.
HENDY- I had never really thought about it, but the majority of our time together is defined by food, video games, and lovingly pestering Tony, our coach. At the Cal- Nevada championships, we went to dinner and Big Fred ordered some gigantic entree with a “side” of hamburgers and cheesecake. And after exhausting ourselves on Track and Field 2000 for N64, Jilly and I found an adorable Hello Kitty marshmallow lollypop at the nearby gas station and made another thrower give it to him because I couldn’t control my hysterical laughter.
Q- Can you tell us the story of how you came to be a thrower? Did you play other sports?
HENDY- I started playing tennis when I was in elementary school, and was convinced that I would never put down my racket. But in the winter of my freshman year in high school, a friend on the varsity track team told me that I was “built like a thrower” and should consider trying out. He demonstrated the spin technique up and down the aisles in the auditorium we used for our drama class. I had no idea what a discus even was, but I was intrigued.
Q- How do you get pumped up before a meet?
HENDY- I try not to get excited, or I lose my focus. Normally, I just clear my mind of everything, save a few technical details.
Q- For you, what is the most difficult part about competing in a track and field meet?
HENDY- I think the most difficult part about competing is letting go of inhibiting circumstances- weather, stress, pain - and allowing myself to become totally immersed in the competition.
Q- Is there any other track & field event you have always secretly wanted to compete in?
HENDY- The 10k. Seriously.
Q- Any idea what the future holds beyond UC San Diego for Sarah Hendy?
HENDY- I’ve come to understand if I spontaneously (and intelligently) take advantage of whatever opportunity arises, regardless of my “plans”, things seem to work out. But, if the opportunity for me to continue my education and then research dying languages in a Francophone country while actively participating in the environmentalist revolution as an organic farmer arises, then that is what my future holds.