The fourth time was a charm for Washougal High School thrower Kiersten De La Rocha.
In her fourth appearance at the 2A track and field state championships, De La Rocha took first-place honors in the discus event May 23 in Tacoma.
“Crazy,” she said. “I did much more than I really expected, which was really, really nice.”
As a freshman De La Rocha surprised everyone by qualifying for the state meet in the shot put. As a sophomore she finished 10th at state in the discus. As a junior she finished ninth, again just missing the podium.
“I knew I must be doing something right because I was getting better,” she said, “but it was disappointing for me, and I knew I could do so much better. (Those experiences) gave me the push and the motivation to get onto the podium.”
Crossfit training helped De La Rocha in the offseason
De La Rocha, a Running Start student at Clark College, said that her studies limited her training time. After getting a friendly nudge from her parents last summer, she decided to start training at her uncle Brandon Evenson’s Crossfit Mill Town gymnasium in Camas.
She took bootcamp classes “designed to push people a little bit further than they would normally push themselves in the gym alone,” according to the Crossfit Mill Town website.
“I think I slowly gained muscle,” De La Rocha said, “and it helped because in previous years I hadn’t done that.”
However, successfully throwing the discus takes much more than just strength.
“You need to have so much coordination and footwork,” she said. “Footwork is so important. I’ve worked on it for a really long time.”
Washougal throws coach Chris Martell has been a mentor for De La Rocha.
“He helps me by showing me the techniques,” she said, “and then has me do things over and over.”
As a Running Start student, track and field practices were a great way for De La Rocha to connect to the close friends she grew up with in Washougal.
“Being in Running Start can feel isolating sometimes, so it was really nice to be in a positive social environment here in Washougal,” De La Rocha said.
Before winning the state title, De La Rocha finished second in a 2A district meet, which was held in front of a large home crowd at Fishback Stadium in Washougal.
“I was a little off,” she said. “My nerves were all over the place.”
She recorded a mark of just over 109 feet at the district meet, but in the state finals two weeks later she tossed the discus 116-4 in very windy conditions.
A reporter asked De La Rocha about the throw, and she remembers saying, “It felt pretty average,” and didn’t think much of it. When she met with her coaches, they told her they weren’t quite sure about the final result, but a few seconds later one of her competitors, Makenna Peterson from Sedro-Woolley, congratulated De La Rocha.
“She said, ‘You won. You threw 116-4, I threw 116-3 and Sydney Mahitka from North Kitsap threw 116-2,'” De La Rocha said. “I couldn’t believe it, so I went over to my coach (Martell) and told him, but he knew the whole time and just wanted me to find out by the announcer, which sounds like something he would do.”
She said the moment was overwhelming because while she was prepared to be happy to attain any position in the top eight, she dealt with the emotions that came with taking first place.
“I felt like a sense of relief in a way,” she said. “I did it after all these years of work. I finally did it.”
De La Rocha will soon add a WHS diploma and Clark College associate’s degree to her state championship. She plans to study psychology in college and eventually counsel high-school students.