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Records falling for EWU hammer thrower Kaytlyn Coleman

EWU hammer thrower Kaytlyn Coleman, at a recent practice, is making an impact on the Eagles’ record book. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
EWU hammer thrower Kaytlyn Coleman, at a recent practice, is making an impact on the Eagles’ record book. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The tattoo on Kaytlyn Coleman’s right arm says it all.

“Play for the love of the game,” it reads. The letters are scripted in the handwriting of her mother, Kara.

“It’s a reminder of why I do this,” said Coleman, a standout thrower at Eastern Washington who’s putting an indelible mark on the school record book.

Three weeks ago, the senior from Kennewick became the first Eagle woman to top 200 feet in the hammer throw. Coleman did it again on April 15 at the Mount Sac Relays, throwing 200 feet, 7 inches – a mark that ranks 18th in the nation.

It’s also the seventh-best mark in the history of the Big Sky Conference, which has bestowed eight weekly honors on Coleman since the indoor season began.

Not bad, considering that four years ago, Coleman was playing volleyball at Lewis-Clark State and thought the hammer was something out of a cartoon strip.

“I was thinking of Thor,” she laughed this week as the Eagles practiced in the throwing area behind Reese Court.

A two-sport star at Kennewick High, Coleman committed in the fall of 2010 to play volleyball at L-C State.

“I didn’t really like track that much until my senior year,” said Coleman, who won a state title in the shot and finished second in the discus at the state 3A meet in 2011.

She stuck with volleyball until a coaching change during her freshman year led Coleman back to the throwing pit. There she found a mentor in L-C State coach Arlen Olson.

“He’s helped me become the hammer thrower I am,” said Coleman, who went on to become a six-time NAIA All-American by the spring of 2014.

By then, Coleman was at another crossroads. Her feats drew interest from Pac-12 schools, but she preferred to “stay grounded” and compete in the Big Sky. She chose Eastern partly because of throws coach Marcia Mecklenburg.

“Actually, I’m the one who’s blessed,” said Mecklenburg, now in her 19th season as head women’s coach and throws specialist.

“Kaytlyn has been a great addition to the team … it’s been valuable having someone come in who already knows what to do with the hammer,” Mecklenburg said.

That’s only half true. Last year, Coleman struggled with the change from a three-turn to a four-turn technique. “It was a transition year,” said Coleman, who finished fifth in the Big Sky meet last year with a toss of 185-7.

Coleman spent the summer learning how to four-turn. “I was feeling connected with the ball – it’s definitely paid off,” she said this week.

Oddly enough, the hammer is Coleman’s headline event, but it’s not her favorite. “I care more about the weight throw because it’s shorter and heavier,” she said, referring to the 20-pound ball that’s a staple of indoor meets.

“I lot of girls like to hammer because it’s more about agility,” Coleman said.

The weight throw provided Coleman with her first prize at Eastern – she placed third in the Big Sky indoor meet in 2015 – but also her biggest disapppointment to date.

With one throw remaining, Coleman led the field at this year’s Big Sky Indoors. However, Molli Detlof of North Dakota equaled Coleman’s best mark. The tie-breaker – the second-best throw – went to Detlof by three inches.

“That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through,” said Coleman, who didn’t have time to dwell on the setback, as the outdoor season follows hard on the heels of the indoor.

“I’ve been pretty focused this spring,” said Coleman, whose weekly regimen includes a heavy dose of weightlifting and technique work, then a road trip for a two-day meet.

Coleman admits getting lost in the routine. She says she has no idea where she ranks on the NCAA list.

With the NCAA West Regionals a month away, Coleman is hoping to peak at the right time. “I’m still hoping for a big one, 205 to 210 feet,” but isn’t obsessed.

“I’m just blessed to be doing this,” said Coleman as she took another glance at her tattoo.

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