Sunday, 20 October 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

A very strong built-in attitude to win

Whitianga parents, Jeff and Vanessa Mills, are extremely proud of their 14-year-old daughter, Sally’s participation in field athletics. She has become a champion and recordholder in javelin throwing with little specific training and knowledge around technique.  

Sally, who has a very strong built-in attitude to win, is relying solely on her natural talent at the moment, rather than asking or expecting her parents to pay for expensive equipment and footwear that she doesn’t feel she needs just yet. “If I want to continue javelin throwing long-term, there will no doubt be some expensive costs ahead for Mum and Dad, but at the moment I’m enjoying field athletics and achieving some pretty good results using a javelin borrowed from [Mercury Bay Area School] and participating in bare feet,” says Sally.

“I’m actually more comfortable throwing the javelin without shoes and I don’t worry or care about what my competitors have that I don’t. In fact, I think it works to my advantage at times, as those competitors who have the best of everything can feel a little bit under pressure to beat me.”

Sally’s introduction to javelin throwing began at the MBAS athletics carnival last year. “My twin sister, Jemma, and I decided to give javelin throwing a try and although Jemma threw further on the day, I was the one who decided to continue and take things a bit more seriously,” says Sally.

In a short space of time, Sally has gone on to not only win, but rewrite the record books at a host of different athletics meetings.

After coming second to her twin at the MBAS athletics last year, it was a role reversal this year when Sally not only won the javelin, but broke the school record with a throw of 27 metres (Jemma finished second, 1m behind Sally).

On their 14th birthday in March this year, both Sally and Jemma attended the Thames Valley athletics meeting that was held in Waihi. Sally extended her best javelin throwing distance out to 29.79m, when she took out first place in her age group, breaking the old record - which had stood since 1984 - by an impressive 2m. This gained her a place at the Waikato athletics meeting in Hamilton later in March, where she won her age group and earned selection for the Waikato/Bay of Plenty team to compete at the North Island Secondary School Athletics Championships which were held in Tauranga in April.

In addition to her winning streak continuing in Tauranga against the best in the North Island, Sally was able to increase her best throw out to 30.46m.

The next big event where Sally will compete will be the New Zealand Championships in Wellington in December, where she will come up against the best in the country in her Junior Girls age group.

To help improve her technique, Sally is spending some time with MBAS teacher, Andy Henley, who is a former competitive athlete. Other than this, Sally and Jeff are studying YouTube footage about the finer points of javelin throwing. They also use a block of empty land behind their home for Sally to practice on.

“Dad just pegs out the throwing distances I’m trying to achieve and between us we critique and change my throwing action based on what we think we know,” says Sally. “Mr Henley has also been a great help in getting me to where I am. So far things are going well, so we must be heading in the right direction”.

While Jeff, who’s a forestry worker, is something of a novice when it comes to coaching an athlete to throw the javelin, he’s no stranger to hard work and discipline when it comes to sport. He keeps a high level of fitness and has a past history of boxing, both as an amateur and professionally, for many years.

While Sally has also tasted success in other sports such as netball and basketball, which she still plays on a social level, she likes the individuality that javelin throwing provides. “It’s really up to me to perform at my best on a given day, much like when Dad had to step into the boxing ring, I guess,” says Sally.

Pictured: Mercury Bay Area School student, Sally Mills, in action during an athletics meeting earlier this year.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.