by Tiara Pajimola
Freshman transfer Kerry Wright is the No. 1 thrower in the nation for Division III javelin after a rocky start to the beginning of her college career. She had the dream of Division I track and field her whole life, but that dream changed after one semester at Portland State University.
Wright has been a part of track and field since the second-grade. In elementary school, Wright joined the Westside Track Club in Portland, Ore., where she was born and raised. In her early years, Wright did a little bit of everything — competing in sprints, high jump, long jump and shot put. In middle school, Wright began participating in the javelin. Wright continued to throw the javelin at Sunset High School in Portland, Ore. along with shot put and discus.
High school was when Wright fell in love with javelin, she said. Wright attributes Dani Maier, her high school javelin coach, as the reason for her success with javelin.
“She built me up and she was able to give me the best opportunity,” Wright said. “I was determined to be the best athlete I could be and she was willing to put in that time to help me reach that point. She gave me so much confidence and she taught me so much.”
Wright improved by about 20 feet per year throughout high school, starting at a mark of about 80 feet as a freshman and improving to 140-3 by her senior year. She qualified for state in 2012 as a senior at Sunset and placed fifth.
Wright was accepted into Portland State University and made the team for track and field.
“We had four hour practices, six days a week,” Wright said. “I had the dream of Division I but I realized that I wanted more out of the college experience besides track and it consumed my life [at that level]. I wasn’t able to do anything with friends and it just didn’t feel like the right fit. I knew that kind of program wasn’t what I wanted.”
From her experience during that semester, Wright knew she wanted a change. She contacted Whitworth’s head track and field coach Toby Schwarz and visited the school. She watched practice and met the team, and when everything was sorted out and situated, she knew exactly what she wanted to do.
“Academically, spiritually, athletically… in every aspect, Whitworth felt like family,” Wright said. “Whitworth opened my eyes to knowing what I wanted out of college and this school encompassed that change.”
Within the first couple days of the new semester, Wright immediately began practice at full force, and just like that, she was part of the family.
“I can’t describe it,” Wright said. “Toby is that one person who will always be there for you no matter what. All the coaches, everyone is just there for you and always there for you to talk to. My teammates made me feel at home and I felt like I was part of the team. They welcomed me like I’d been there the whole year.”
Head coach Toby Schwarz knew that this was the kind of acceptance she would feel coming to Whitworth.
“Whitworth is just that way,” Schwarz said. “For her, I could tell she felt very guarded from what she experienced in the fall. Coming from that it seemed that this was too good to be true, but she had faith and she trusted and it turned into the perfect situation.”
Senior Carter Comito is a fellow thrower and he couldn’t agree more.
“She is a very friendly and outgoing person,” Comito said. “She works hard and was part of the team right away. She belongs here.”
Wright is now focusing solely on javelin at Whitworth and already holds the school record of 149 feet, which is the top mark in the nation.
“I never could have imagined this as a freshman,” Wright said. “It’s a lot of hard work and I’ve put in so much time but there is still a lot that can be fixed and perfected. I’m not at my peak yet I hope, so staying humble and competing for the glory of God is my main focus. If everything else falls into place, that’s just the icing on the cake.”
Despite her No. 1 ranking, Schwarz sees much more in Wright’s future.
“She’s in a position to be a four-time national champion and honestly I can see her throwing about 20 feet further,” Schwarz said.
As far as academics, Wright thinks school is going well.
“The professors here are very personable, they always ask me about track,” Wright said.
Athletically and academically, Whitworth ended up being a good balance for Wright.
“I know that I’m learning a lot more here and it’s going to pay off in the end,” Wright said.
Contact Tiara Pajimola at email@example.com