Pac-10 Q&A with Rachel Yurkovich, Oregon Track & Field

Feb. 27, 2009

15 Minutes with Rachel Yurkovich

Arguably the best collegiate women's javelin thrower in the country returns in 2009 for her final season. Yurkovich won her first NCAA javelin title at the Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, as a junior in 2008. The three-time Pac-10 Champion and three-time NCAA West Region Champion holds the school and league marks in the event at 191-1. She is the first three-time Pac-10 champion in the same event in school history. On the national scene, Yurkovich won the bronze medal in the javelin at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials. Come this spring, the three-time All-American will attempt to join the elite company of only four competitors in Conference history who have won four consecutive Pac-10 titles. Her personal best of 191-1 ranks sixth all-time amongst both all American throwers and all collegians. Yurkovich Is a four-time USA Championships qualifier. Courtesy of Rachel gives a shout-out to her hometown of Newburg [Ore.]: 'thank you for always supporting me and being physically present to cheer me on.'

Something about yourself that others would be surprised to hear... I could walk on my hands for days. I was in gymnastics for a really long time as a child; I tumbled from age 4 or 5 through my middle school years. It's a good skill to have because as a member of the Oregon throwing squad, I am expected to walk on my hands or do a hand stand as a warmup exercise before weight lifting. Hand Stand
Attribute I like most about myself... I can push myself really far, usually further than even I think I can. Whenever I feel the urge or need to stop in training, I try to demand a higher expectation of myself and push through the pain. There is such a thing as pushing too far, though; I learned as an underclassman that pushing myself past the pain threshold is not a good thing.
If I could make the cover of any magazine, it would be... Sports Illustrated. It's a magazine whose primary audience is people who have the same interest in athletics as me. I'm sure I respect many people in that target audience, as well. I would want to be posed on the cover as the athlete that I am - a thrower - because there aren't many prolific images or mainstream media profiles that recognize our specialty. Sports Illustrated
A day in the life: my favorite workout... I most enjoy the days we spend in the weight room. When I first came to college I didn't think strength in any way correlated to good throwing. But I've learned over the past few years that my muscle strength adds an extra force to my throws that improves distance significantly. Needless to say, our squad spends a lot of time in the weight room; we actually only throw two times each week. An example of a great weight workout: warmup with one of the pillars of strength (e.g. walking on hands) to engage stretching and core work; follow with a hanging abs exercise in which we hang by our legs from a bar and pull ourselves up using core strength; next is five sets of three dumbbell cleans that progress in weight (my last set hit 82 kilos at the end); five sets of two squats (I squatted 230 pounds on my last set); finish with some shoulder rehab and joint strengthening. 
Favorite University of Oregon memory... I think that would be having the Olympic Trials on our campus. It was amazing to see the transformation of the [Hayward Field] track and the huge number of people that filled the stands. There was a great sense of recognition by our community; they came out to the meet to watch us, their home competitors.
The greatest pressure of competing in Track Town USA... There is a lot of pressure as a track & field athlete because our fans know the sport so well. They understand the triumphs and struggles that come with training and competition. I find it particularly stressful to not compete in every home meet, simply because I am a part of Track Town USA. It's an incredibly fun place to compete; to not compete means to not get to experience that thrill and motivation. Track Town USA
A teammate who has significantly influenced me... Alex Wolff, a thrower on our men's side. He struggled with injury during his first two years as a Duck. Never for one second, though, did he give up on efforts to resume health or stop training as much as his body would allow. We went to high school together and I used to give him such a hard time about his relentless work ethic. Alex always put in extra time at practice and added workouts on off days. If I didn't follow his lead and work extra hours, I would look like a slacker! It was really annoying, but made me a greater athlete.
The sport I'm worst at... I'm terrible at tennis. I try to drill the ball every time I wind up for a swing. I am hopeless at hitting the ball in the right direction or getting it to stay inbounds. Tennis
Favorite class I have taken at Oregon... I took a really neat nutrition class with [Dr.] Janice Radcliffe, who's the wife of Jim Radcliffe, our head strength and conditioning coach. The information shared in the class was extremely relevant to my athletic efforts and to daily life in general. We learned about vitamins and the ways in which they can both help and hurt the body. We also explored positive eating habits in different situations; in other words, how to best care for yourself through nutrition when traveling, sick, training really hard, etc.
What I'm reading... For my International Economic Growth class we are currently reading from the textbook Economic Growth. The book I have attempted to read on my own is titled Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales. It is a nonfiction story about people whose jobs deviate from the norm and how their minds and bodies react in life-threatening situations. For example, one featured profession is pilots who land on and take off from aircraft carriers. In order to land on the short runway, the planes are essentially caught by a chord that latches onto one particular location on the plane. There is extremely little room for error; there is no opportunity to abort a landing if the approach is not perfect. So the book investigates the numbing process of the body and the autopilot mentality of the brain when such a risky situation arises.  Deep Survival
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