EUGENE, Ore. — The third time has Kara Winger feeling charmed.
With a throw of 189 feet, 11 inches, Winger placed third in the javelin at the Olympic Track and Field Trials at Hayward Field on Saturday.
Now Winger, a Skyview High graduate, can call herself a three-time Olympian. She previously made the team in 2008 and 2012.
“I’m just excited to be going to Rio, healthy, this time,” she said. “You know, four years ago, in the javelin final (of the Olympic Trials), I tore my ACL. So to walk away today being sound of body, I’m happy about that.”
Winger had breezed through the qualifying round on Thursday by posting the best mark (201-6) but struggled at times in the final on Saturday. She led after the first round with a throw of 185 feet and 10 inches but then fell to third place in the next round.
In the fifth round, she improved with the throw that would eventually earn her the third and final spot on the team. Winger had an opportunity in her sixth and final throw to overtake the leader but fouled. In all, she fouled in four of her six throws.
“It was just a weird day,” she said. “I was nervous, and I didn’t handle it well. It was probably a product of my lack of experience this season.”
Winger had competed just once this year before the Olympic Trials, partly due to her recovery from an off-season surgery.
“But then I relied on my experience from all the other years,” she said. “Like I said the other day, all that’s important is qualifying for the Olympic team.”
Maggie Malone, the current NCAA champion from Texas A & M, earned first place with a mark of 199-7. Hannah Carson of Texas Tech took second with a mark of 190-11.
When asked if this Olympic Trials, her third, felt differently than her two previous ones, Winger said, “It feels more real. It’s still special to me even though it’s my third (time) but I just feel so much more prepared for it. Technically. Emotionally.”
At this Olympic Trials, Winger also said she felt like the elder.
“You know, Maggie and Hannah are both 22. They just graduated from college. It was evident that they had a lot of chances to sharpen themselves in competition this year.
“But being a 30-year-old competing with those girls … it was inspiring today. I’m impressed by how young and how consistent they are, especially Maggie.”
“I’m excited about the potential of women’s javelin in the U.S. moving forward,” Winger added. “The fact that they stepped up today and did what they did was super inspiring to me. I’m really excited to still be a part of the javelin even though I’m eight years their senior.”
Malone was equally complimentary after the meet. Of Winger, she said, “I met her when I was a sophomore in college. She’s amazing. I look to her career and I want to be exactly like her. I’m just blessed to be able to compete with her. And to have her go to Rio with us is so great because she’s going show us the ropes and everything.”
Rio is only a month away, with the track and field events set to begin Aug. 12.
Winger said she was unsure of her immediate plans in preparation for the Olympics.
“I have to talk to my coach,” Winger said. “I definitely want to have a couple more competitions before then. I just don’t know where they will be. I don’t really want to go to Europe so we will see if something domestic can happen.”
Winger also sounded hopeful and confident about the Olympics.
“I’m more than capable of winning a medal,” she said. “I’m not sure exactly what that will take based on my fitness level this year. I still have a lot more technical work to do, but if I’m on my game, anything can happen.
“I’m hoping third time’s the charm.”