By Dan Guttenplan , Sports editor
Daily News of Newburyport

BYFIELD - At age 10, Byfield's Tara Karin and her 9-year-old sister, Abbey, would venture to The Governor's Academy's track to watch the school's athletes throw the javelin.

The Karin sisters' mother, Mary Ellen, served as the GA track team's javelin coach, and their father, Michael, was a math teacher and hockey coach at the school.

I remember the whole environment of being at a track meet, Tara Karin said. I knew that, eventually, that's what I wanted to do.

Now a 17-year-old junior, Tara shattered her own school javelin record last Saturday in GA's opening tri-meet at Thayer Academy. According to Track and Field News, she posted the third farthest throw (152-0) of any high school athlete in the country this year.

Abbey, now a 16-year-old sophomore, also bested her sister's previous record but fell just shy of matching Tara's new mark. She threw 142-3 - good for the seventh farthest throw in the country according to Track and Field News.

Abbey feels the breakout performances were a result of her elder sister's need to win the sibling rivalry.

The previous weekend, I barely beat Tara in the javelin, Abbey said. She got a little mad about it. I think it pushed her harder.

GA track coach Tim Weir would agree.

They're so competitive with each other, it's almost comical to watch, Weir said. Everything's a competition. And whoever wins will have bragging rights until the next thing they decide to compete over.

The Karins grew up on the GA campus and began throwing the turbo javelin - a plastic version used by adolescents for safety purposes - at age 10. They made the switch to the high school javelin at 13 and have competed in the last five National Junior Olympics.

They would come to all of my meets growing up, said Mary Ellen. I think watching other athletes helped. It gave them an early exposure to track a lot of other kids don't have.

Despite Mary Ellen's track background, she encouraged her daughters to play a variety of sports to build their athleticism. Tara and Abbey are both three-sport athletes at GA. Tara also plays field hockey and ice hockey. Abbey plays soccer and ice hockey.

Mary Ellen, a physical education teacher at St. Mary's in Danvers, believes the girls' recent javelin performances are a result of being well-rounded athletes.

There's too much specialization now, Mary Ellen said. If kids specialize too early, they might miss out on an opportunity to play a sport they could excel in. When you play the same sport all year, it's tough to get up for it and easy to burn out.

The Karin sisters did a share of javelin-specific training last offseason. The girls built their core strength by throwing tires and sledgehammers.

The girls' recent national rankings would figure to parlay into interest from college coaches. Tara plans to focus her search outside of New England where the weather won't place as many limitations on throwing outdoors. Abbey would also like to continue her javelin career in college but does not plan to follow her sister's path.

I think I'll try something different than Tara, Abbey said. We've never experienced going to different schools.

And they have also never experienced a day at the track without Coach Mom.

It's always been a whole family thing, Abbey said. We all work so hard together. At the end of practice, our mom always says, 'Your mother called, and she said you can stay late.' It's been a lot of fun to have them around.

Top high school javelin throws of 2007

Name Hometown Result

1. Karlee McQuillen Johnstown, Pa. 157-3

2. Hannah Carson Chandler, Az. 154-11

3. Tara Karin Byfield, Mass. 152-0

4. Courtney Kirkwood Othello, Wa. 151-11

5. Ali Super West Linn, Ore. 150-3

6. Tauni Powell Springfield, Ore. 145-8

7. Abbey Karin Byfield, Mass. 142-3

8. Christina Grizzel Jefferson, Ore. 142-2