The Newberg youth sets another personal record to win the Junior Olympics javelin competition by one inch

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Having already won her fifth Junior Olympics javelin state title and a regional title, as well as setting a new state age-group record, Newberg’s Lala Frketich had just two goals remaining as she headed into the final meet of what has been a magical FILE PHOTO - Unsuspecting champion -- After misreading some of the results, Lala Frketich didn't realize she had won the Junior Olympic national championship in the javelin until after the competition, when a judge approached her and congratulated her. Frketich, 12, won the meet with a personal-best throw of 113 feet, 5 inches to win by one inch.

All that remained for the 12-year-old was to win a national title and improve her personal best throw, therefore putting a little more distance between her and whoever will chase her state record in the future.

Frketich went 2-for-2, claiming the top spot and setting a new personal mark with her throw of 113 feet, 5 inches Thursday at the USATF Junior Olympic national championships at North Carolina State A&T, but it wasn’t easy.

“It was a lot more intense than any other meet we’ve been to and a lot more pressure on the girls because there were a lot of eyes,” Frketich’s father and coach, Len, said. “It was great to come, a great experience.”

The No. 2 seed entering the event, Frketich stood in fourth place entering the finals and had just fallen to fifth before her second-to-last throw, as top-seed Charlotte Maher of San Diego, Calif., jumped all the way from seventh to first with a throw of 112-9 on her fifth attempt. In doing so, Maher leapfrogged co-leaders Maura Huwalt of South Park, Pa., and Koi Johnson of La Marque, Texas, who had each thrown 106-7 in the preliminaries.

In response, Frketich uncorked her biggest throw to add 3 feet and 7 inches to her state record.

“The good thing is that twice in a row in competition she’s stepped up and made a big throw and took over the competition, this one especially because she was way behind,” Len Frketich said. “We could have left with a fifth, but she really sucked it up and on that next to last throw, got a really good throw off.”

Frketich held the lead, but the competition was far from over.

Ashlyn Aguilar of Socorro, N.M., gave Frketich a run for her money on her final attempt, but came up just short at 113-4. In metric measurements, the difference between the two was just one centimeter, 34.56 to 34.55.

The win actually came as a shock to Frketich, as she and her father had misread Maher’s throw to be 34.83 meters when it had been 34.38.

Pretty upset thinking she had fallen just short of a national championship, it wasn’t until Frketich was congratulated by one of the judges that she realized she had won. Even then, it took a little time for it to dawn on her what the judge’s gesture actually meant.

“I was a little shaky,” Lala Frketich said. “The first three throws weren’t too hot, but when I got to the finals, I knew I had to do this. I needed to just jump to first place and I did. I just had that one big one. It was a great way to end the season with a PR and winning the national title.”

The meet was the last for Frketich using the “mini-javelin” or “turbo-javelin” used by children 12-and-under. It weighs 300 grams compared to the 600-gram implement she will now use for the rest of her career.

Frketich’s older brother, Hap, threw 144-1 to place 13th in the boys 15-16 javelin competition, which took place in very hot and humid conditions Sunday. Mike Biddle won the title with a throw of 175-9.

“It was a great year,” Len Frketich said. “Lala hit her goals, Hap really came on and threw a lot further than I think we thought he could and (sibling Branko) did the same in discus. We’re already planning for Houston next year.”

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