UH's Keenan likes to play long toss
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
Picture a football field with a shy, lean and long young woman on the goal line. Now picture that lithe figure flinging a 2.2-pound "frisbee" more than half the distance of the field, winning the WAC discus championship and throwing a personal best — twice — by some seven feet.
That was University of Hawai'i sophomore TeRina Keenan 10 days ago in Ruston, La. Ideally, Keenan will provide a sequel at this week's NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship West Preliminary Round.
Events run Thursday through Saturday in Austin, Texas. The Rainbow Wahine also qualified three high jumpers (Amber Kaufman, Sarah Saddleton, Samantha Balentine), two javelin throwers (Karen Guravska and Lauren Cutler), triple jumper Madara Apine, Emma MacCorquodale in hammer and Thalia Amanakis in 400 hurdles.
The top 12 in each event advance to nationals, June 9 to 12 in Eugene, Ore. Kaufman, an honorable mention All-American in volleyball, is ranked No. 1 nationally in high jump. She won the silver medal at the NCAA Indoors in March. A year ago she took third in Outdoors.
Keenan's breakout performance was mind-boggling. Her best throw this season had been 169 feet, 7 inches (51.69 meters) in March. While she and associate coach Garrett Collier focused on consistency in her second year, Keenan worked her way into the country's Top 25 with a series of throws in the low 50 meters.
There were other monster throws along the way, but Keenan's 6-foot frame was out of the 8-foot circle when they happened.
"I have a little trouble staying in the ring," said Keenan, who is from Auckland and came to UH with three New Zealand high school discus championships.
Lately, Keenan has found a balance, literally. Her focus on consistency has finally kicked her off-balance habit that caused wild throws and fouls. At the WAC Championship, she was calm, composed and crazy good.
When her first throw fell to the LaTech turf 175 feet, 7 inches (53.53 meters) from where it started, Keenan was "a little bit shocked." When her second went 176-4 (53.76), her reaction went beyond.
She knew it felt good — "Usually when I throw it I can feel it when it comes off, you can tell whether it's going to be good or bad" — but could not comprehend nearly how good.
"She was shocked, she was excited," Collier said. "We knew it could happen and was just a matter of time. But to do it against a girl who towers over her (LaTech's Phelecia Reynolds, a 23-year-old from Jamaica who won the WAC in 2008) was pretty impressive. I think it will be good for her and help her in Texas."
Keenan now comes into regionals ranked sixth, and second on the UH career list behind Novelle Murray. Collier figures a throw in the "high 51s or low 52s" will get her to Eugene. As a freshman, she finished 14th at regionals — two spots away from a national appearance.
That and a college education were what Keenan's mother TeAroha had in mind when she talked with Collier at the Oceania Championships a few years ago. A respected netball player and coach Down Under, TeAroha "saw an opportunity" for her daughter in America.
TeRina, who has been throwing since she was 12, has made the most of it. She came here looking for a new coach devoted to throws and helping her learn weight training, something she had never done in New Zealand.
Her "strength" now can be traced to her lanky build. She looks more like a volleyball player than a thrower, but has exceptional technique, a natural "gift for the discus" and long arms.
"She can just 'pull and rip' better than others can," Collier says. "And she's doing it without really any strength. We haven't been able to hit the weights hard at all. I'm just teaching her how to lift right now."
The four throwers in Austin aren't the only ones who finished the season on a high note. UH junior Careena Onosai threw a personal best in the shot put at the WAC Championship. Onosai, a three-sport star at Word of Life, threw 44-1.5 — a foot farther than she had all year.