A little more than two years after first interviewing her, I finally had the honor of meeting Chari Hawkins.
The professional heptathlete and 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier is in Rexburg this week to host her first track camp in eastern Idaho. She recently completed her first year of grad school at the University of Bath in England, where she also competed in track. It was impressive to see her at work, and hear the ‘oohs’ and ‘aws’ from campers.
Chari Hawkins leads warm ups before the afternoon session of her Follow Your Dreams track and field camp at Madison Junior High School on Wednesday. The Madison grad recently took second in heptathlon at the Pan Am Combined Championships in Canada. John Roark/ email@example.com
Hawkins returns to Rexburg to host track camp
By MARLOWE HEREFORD
REXBURG – Several young athletes had the opportunity to train with, chat with and high five a professional athlete Thursday at the very track where she got her start.
In her return to her old stomping grounds, Chari Hawkins was the one providing instruction rather than receiving it on day one of the Follow Your Dreams camp at Madison Junior High. The 2010 Madison graduate, five-time All-American at Utah State and professional heptathlete wasn’t merely giving instruction, however. She warmed up with the athletes, demonstrated every drill and had ample opportunity for one-on-one conversation upon watching athletes complete drills.
Track has taken Hawkins all over the United States, and more recently to the United Kingdom where she competed as a student athlete for the University of Bath this past academic year and to Canada for the Pan Am Combined Championships. The constant travel limits how often she can visit her hometown, but a longtime ambition of organizing a track camp on her home track is being fulfilled this week.
Hawkins had previously helped her father, retired Madison High School boys basketball coach Bill Hawkins, with some of his camps, but this week marks the first time she has been solely in charge of a track camp.
“This is so fun,” Hawkins said. “I’ve been looking forward to this week. Track is so much more than technique. I’m hoping to show them how much fun they can have.”
Hawkins shared plenty of knowledge and enthusiasm throughout Wednesday’s afternoon session, which was geared toward athletes ages 12 to 17. As athletes arrived, she distributed journals to them in which to record things they learn during the camp. She shared that she has maintained a journal every day ever since training with Olympians Ashton Eaton and Brianne Eaton in Santa Barbara two years ago. Journaling is part of the Eatons’ training, and Hawkins said she has benefited from recording things she has learned and keeping track of her progress.
In between drills Wednesday, Hawkins encouraged athletes to make an entry in their journals.
“Be a student of the sport,” Hawkins told campers Wednesday. “It’s like studying for a test. The more you study, the better you’ll do on the test. I write in mine every single day.”
After warming up with the athletes, Hawkins and fellow Utah State track alumni Kenny Hamlett and C.J. O’Neal led them through sprint and hurdles drills. They demonstrated the drills before watching each athlete complete them, offering critique afterwards.
“Keep your hips as square as possible,” Hawkins said during hurdle drills.
Chari Hawkins demonstrates how to complete a hurdle drill at her Follow Your Dreams track camp at Madison Junior High School on Wednesday. Athletes also completed sessions on sprints and jumps. John Roark/ firstname.lastname@example.org
They then divided into sessions based on jumps-long jump with Hamlett and O’Neal and high jump with Hawkins. Hawkins introduced athletes to something she learned this year during the high jump session, running ‘slightly on your toes but mostly on your flat feet’ to attain the most speed upon approach and maximize height on the final step.
One of the high jumpers Hawkins worked with was incoming Rigby High School senior Marissa West, who met Hawkins previously because of her friendship with older sister and Utah State graduate Chalese West. After Wednesday’s sessions concluded, West said she had already learned several new things.
“I’ve learned things I’ve never seen taught before,” West said. “I’ve been to other camps with (1968 Olympic champion) Dick Fosbury and Willie Banks. She’s a lot younger than they are. It helps because you can relate to her better.”