West Monroe native Rebekah Wales finished her freshman year at LSU with the fifth best throw all-time in program history. / Bryan Wayne/LSU Sports Information
One of the most decorated track and field athletes to come out of Ouachita Parish in recent memory is about to take her game to the world stage.
LSU javelin thrower and West Monroe High School product Rebekah Wales will make her debut for Team USA in the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships July 22 to 27, 2014 in Eugene, Oregon.
Wales was one of just two female javelin throwers to qualify after 18 girls recently attempted to make the team in Oregon.
Wales threw 164 feet, 7 inches in that competition. It was a big accomplishment for Wales, who had thrown just 154-2 on her way to 19th-place with LSU at the NCAA Championships a month earlier in Eugene.
“I am really comfortable throwing (in Eugene),” Wales said. “The weather is perfect. It is not too hot or cold. I didn’t do well the first time, but you have different kind of wind there that you have to deal with. You have to drive the javelin straight in the wind. I think this time will be less stressful to me.”
Aiding in the comfort level of Wales’ first international competition is the fact that her throwing coach from LSU, Derek Yush, will be there coaching her for the IAAF Championships.
As a freshman this past season, Wales worked with Yush, who saw some things mechanically he wanted to change about the way she was throwing the javelin.
“I wanted to keep her slow on her approach at first, then after the NCAA we moved her back some in her starting point on her run,” Yush said. “When you are going slow it is easier to hit where you are targeting. I didn’t want to change anything in what she was doing until after the NCAA, but she has made the changes and is getting better and better each time out at practice.”
Wales earned three District 2-5A championships and regionals while at West Monroe High School and capped off her career with a Class 5A championship and state record (154-11) in the event. However, she expected the college coaches to tinker with her craft once she joined the LSU team last fall.
“I knew that they would change things up, but it helps,” Wales said. “It has helped my speed and so it has been good.”
She and coach Yush will depart for Oregon next week in preparation for the first heat of qualifying.
Wales was the No. 4 freshmen in the country in the NCAA this year and won first place at the Jim Mize Invitational at Louisiana Tech in her LSU debut with a throw of 166-11, a mark that ranks fifth all-time in LSU history.
“She is a very good athlete of course, but her determination is what sets her apart from others,” Yush said.
“She is always trying to improve. She never misses a rep in the weight room and is always trying to improve, but this will be different and tougher than anything she has done before. Hopefully me being able to work with her there will aid her comfort level.”
The meet will also be a measuring stick for Wales for how far she has progressed.
In 2012 she tried out for Team USA for the Junior Olympics but finished ninth among the competition.
“It is such an amazing feeling,”Wales said. “I never dreamed I would be able to do something like this.”
Connect with Cody on Twitter @cfutrellTNS