EUGENE, Ore. — Kara Winger has compiled a lot during her track and field career — a slew of national championships, a U.S. record and four Olympic Games.
But in all that time, the Skyview High School graduate never had her Hayward moment.
That came on Saturday.
Winger surpassed the qualifying standard for the World Championships on her final throw Saturday to win her ninth national title in the women’s javelin, winning with a throw of 64.26 meters (210 feet, 10 inches) at the U.S. outdoor track and field championships at Hayward Field.
“I’m just really happy,” Winger said. “I’ve watched a lot of people have that magical standard moment on their last throw in this stadium. But it’s never quite been me. So to have that happen today was really special.”
After current U.S. record holder Maggie Malone fouled out in the qualifying rounds, the battle for the women’s javelin national championship was wide open. Winger sat in third place after three qualifying rounds at 58.40 meters.
“When Maggie fouled out, that’s not how you want to win anything, and I wasn’t winning (at the time) anyway,” Winger said. “And I know all of us wanted to make her proud too, wanted to our best today. It’s not enough to just win at that point.”
On Winger’s fifth of six throws, she slipped past Ariana Ince into first place by one inch with a throw of 60.46 or 198-4. When Ince could not improve her mark on her final attempt, Winger had her ninth national title and first since 2018.
With the crowd cheering her on, Winger then unleashed her season-best mark of 64.26.
“I did have it in my mind ‘What if this is my magical Hayward moment?’ ” Winger said. “I just had to relax and trust my own technique. I did that on my last throw. I want to do that in my first three throws at the world championships.”
Also Saturday at Hayward, Ridgefield High graduate Trey Knight, an All-American this spring at USC, placed 15th in the men’s hammer throw at 69.99 meters (229-7).
The World Championships are July 15-24 right back here at Hayward Field. Based on her ranking this season, Winger was confident that she would qualify for worlds, but Saturday’s effort removed all doubt.
“I’ve never not thrown the standard at worlds, so that feels really good,” Winger said. “It’s just icing on the cake. It put the real nail in the coffin to make this team (for worlds). … This is my 10th outdoor national team, and to throw the standard every time for a really long time is very cool.”
Winger, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., had planned to cap her track and field career at the World Championships in Eugene in 2021. But the pandemic pushed the Olympics back to 2021 and worlds back to 2022.
That turned out to be a blessing as Winger suffered a season-ending knee injury in the summer of 2020. She was able to battle back to make her fourth Olympic team last summer, where she was selected to be the U.S. flag bearer in the closing ceremonies in Tokyo.
And now in her final track and field season, Winger said she was reflecting on her track and field career with her husband and coach Russ Winger on Friday night.
“Russ was saying ‘you know you might have that closure,’ ” Winger said, choking back emotions. “Well, if that’s not closure, I don’t know what is. It’s very cool to win again, especially in my final nationals.”
And she got to take a victory lap around Hayward Field with her ninth national title.
“I always wanted 10 (national championships) in my career,” Winger said. “But nine is really good, too.”