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Letting it fly in the foothills

Sierra Foothill Club taking eight throwers to Junior Olympics
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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ROCKLIN — A broken hand is enough to spoil just about any teenager’s summer, let alone a discus thrower with aspirations to make the Junior Olympics. A wakeboarding accident last month left Tony Mangino with a big cast on his right hand and his hopes of a berth in the USATF National Junior Olympics in doubt — until he picked up a hammer. Mangino realized he could get a good enough grip to compete in the hammer throw and he did more than that, earning a qualifying spot in the event at this week’s national meet. “Discus was my thing, until I broke my hand — now it’s hammer,” Mangino said. “I just joined for fun in high school and coach (Lloyd Hedenland) got me into the club season. And now I’m going to Omaha.” Mangino will join a group of eight throwers from the Sierra Foothill Track Club at the Junior Olympics in Omaha, Neb. For the past three years, Chelsea Hedenland was virtually on her own at the Junior Olympics. This year the Placer senior-to-be qualified by winning the hammer throw and the javelin at the Region 14 Championships last week in Livermore. She also watched and cheered as a gang of teammates booked trips to nationals. “It’s really exciting to have a lot of friends out here,” Hedenland said. All but two of the throwers competed at Placer High last year — brothers Matt and Zachary Post attend Whitney High. Melissa Manning, who will be a junior at Placer in the fall, took first in the hammer in the Intermediate Girls division with a throw of 72 feet, 1 inch. Placer sophomore-to-be Lauren Strella was second at 70-09. Manning also earned a trip to nationals with a first-place finish in the javelin with a throw of 79-11. Sierra Foothill completely dominated the Young Men’s division in the hammer. The club took the top seven spots, led by Matt Post’s throw of 170 feet, 6 inches. Tony Mangino was second at 124-00 and Donovan Buttram threw 121-01 to place third. Caleb Cartright took second in the discus with a toss of 133-04 while Matt Post was third at 126-10. Buttram placed second in the javelin with a throw of 146-09 and Cartright was third at 125-11. Like the hammer throw, javelin is not contested during the high school track and field team. Buttram picked up the sport only a few months ago, but said he liked it instantly. “The javelin’s a lot of fun — it’s like you’re throwing a spear,” said Buttram, who will be a senior at Placer in the fall. “Coach Hedenland told us we all had the potential to go to Junior Olympics if we worked hard and that’s what we’ve been doing.” Zachary Post took third in the Intermediate Boys’ shot put (39-2.5) and javelin (116-03) while winning the hammer (117-07). Buttram picked up a javelin for the first time earlier this year and never looked back. The lanky Placer senior-to-be was focusing on throwing the spear this summer while his Junior Olympic berth in the hammer came as a surprise, even to himself. Hedenland’s father Lloyd coaches the throwers in the Sierra Foothill club and at Placer. He taught his daughter how to throw the hammer when she was in junior high and she’s now one of the top competitors in the country. Chelsea is currently seeded ninth heading into the Junior Olympics after throwing the hammer 95-08 at the Region 14 meet. She knows she’ll need a big effort to earn a medal in Omaha. “I definitely want to make it into the top 10 this year,” said Hedenland, who placed 13th last year. The Sierra Foothill athletes have practiced nearly every day this summer, toiling away in virtual anonymity at Granite Oaks Middle School in Rocklin. The payoff is a trip to a meet that could potentially lay the foundation for a college scholarship. After just four months throwing the hammer, Mangino said that’s one of his goals. “I was strong and that’s why I got recruited. I just picked it up really easy,” Mangino said. “Just going to nationals is a big deal. I’m going to train hard all next year and I want to get a scholarship for it, hopefully.” Post sets the tone for the hammer throwers. He is ranked fourth nationally and is drawing interest from Division I schools, including Arizona State. The hammer throw is not offered in high school track and field in California, but Post joined the Sierra Foothill Club several years ago and found his niche. “I’ve always been good at throwing things,” said Post, who is going to the Junior Olympics for the third straight year. “My main event’s hammer so I can’t really do anything during the school year – I didn’t make it past (the Pioneer Valley League finals). For hammer you don’t really need muscle, it’s just hard work learning the technique and getting it to work for you.” “I wouldn’t be nearly as good if it wasn’t for (Post),” Mangino added. “He figured out all the hard stuff already and he helps me a lot.” The Junior Olympics begin Tuesday at