Katelyn Gochenour has participated in every Region 8 Track and Field Junior Olympics meet since she was 9.
This year, the 15-year-old Iowan entering her sophomore year at Omaha Marian will be a spectator and cheerleader for younger sister Kennedy when the first full day of competition starts Saturday morning in Aberdeen, S.D.
That’s because Katelyn already has qualified for the USATF National Junior Olympics this month in Greensboro, N.C., after she participated in the New Balance national outdoor meet in Greensboro in mid-June.
At the Region 8 meet, the top five finishers in each event and all six age groups qualify for the July 22 through 28 national Junior Olympics. Athletes from six states — Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota — are scheduled to compete.
Katelyn Gochenour has another reason to skip this weekend’s competition: she just got back from Finland on Thursday. She was one of eight U.S. high school students invited to participate in the Finnish Javelin Carnival in Pihtipudas before training sessions in Kuortane.
The trip was sponsored by the National Scholastics Athletics Foundation. Gochenour participated in both the under-15 and under-17 competitions. She won both divisions.
She had to throw a 400-gram javelin in the U-15 competition, then one weighing 500 grams in the U-17. She usually throws the 600-gram.
In Finland the javelin is treated like football is in the U.S. There were no other events except the javelin at this meet, and the president of Finland was in the crowd of more than 4,000.
“The form never changes,” Gochenour said. “It was harder to control the lighter 400 one because of the weight difference. The 500 was almost heavy enough to pass as 600. Unless you really thought about it, you couldn’t tell the difference.”
Gochenour has been on the go the past month. In addition to her trips to North Carolina and Finland, she also finished fifth at the Junior Nationals in Des Moines. She was able to make only two throws after tweaking her hamstring on her first throw in the event where 12 of the 17 throwers were college students.
At the New Balance Nationals, Gochenour was the only freshman — boy or girl — to medal in any of the throwing events. Her personal best is 151-7, and she owns the Nebraska Association javelin record in three age groups.
Gochenour attends Marian despite living in Logan, Iowa. But both she and her father, Kelly, confirmed that she won’t go out for track for Marian during the high school season.
Nebraska doesn’t offer the javelin as a high school event, and Gochenour already has invitations to compete next spring in the Penn and Kansas Relays. Kelly Gochenour said Katelyn, who was fourth in the Class A discus in May, will continue to work on that event and the hammer throw in addition to the javelin.
“When you have world champions excited to see how she’s throwing, it made her realize what she can do,” Kelly Gochenour said. “I really think she’ll focus on those three and give up the shot put.”
With only the National Junior Olympics left, Katelyn is a little sad to see the season coming to an end.
“To be honest, I don’t want to rest at all,” she said. “My goal distance is significantly further than the distances I’ve been throwing. With the coaching I had in Finland, I think it’s within my reach.
“If I back off now, it’s not going to happen, but if I continue to push myself I think my goals can be reached.”