Wahine throwers find their way out of the 'jungle'

May 16—1/2

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UH's Hallee Mohr broke the school's discus record by nearly 10 meters at the Big West Championships last week.


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Montserrat Montanes i Arbo repeated as BWC champion in the hammer throw.

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Welcome to the Jungle.

The dirt area known as the "Jungle"— carved behind the portable ROTC buildings on the University of Hawaii's lower campus — is where the Rainbow Wahine track and field team's throwers work on their craft.

Visualization is needed because the length of the field is 52 yards. UH's best throwers — Hallee Mohr (discus) and Montserrat Montanes i Arbo (hammer) — have personal records of 63-plus yards.

Both aim for the hill at the end of field, calculating their throws' potential reach similar to estimating the distance of a batted baseball that lands in the upper deck.

"We don't get that visual feedback each day when we're throwing," Mohr said. "You just have to trust yourself and trust what you're feeling in the ring."

Because there are no "rebounders," Mohr and Montanes i Arbo have to navigate the weedy and rock-covered hill to retrieve their disks and hammers. Assistant coach Sabrina Mendoza has helped clear the hill, including cutting trees.

"We've done a lot of hiking up the hill this season," Montanes i Arbor said.

Mohr added: "I get my steps in."

But their diligence has resulted in success at the past weekend's Big West Championships in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Montanes i Arbor repeated as hammer champion with a throw of 57.74 meters (189 feet, 5 inches). Mohr won the discus by nearly 10 meters with a school-record toss of 58.25 meters (191 feet, 1 inch).

Mohr is ranked 16th nationally and 10th in the West. Mohr is all but assured a berth in next week's West Regionals in Fayetteville, Ark. A top-12 ranking in the West qualifies for the West Regionals.

Montanes i Arbo is a long shot to qualify. "I know God has a plan for me, and whatever happens, happens," she said.

Montanes i Arbo, who grew up in Spain, has overcome obstacles during her four-year UH career. She has never participated in an NCAA meet in Hawaii because of the pandemic and the Ching complex's expansion that covered part of the track. (A new track/soccer complex is being built on the grass fields that the football and soccer teams used for practices.) Montanes i Arbo also faced the pressure of defending her Big West title.

"I trusted my training and my coach and my teammates and just went out and did the best I could," she said. "That worked out and helped me get the championship."

Mohr, who grew up in Washington, changed course during a track and field career that began in middle school. After falling while competing in hurdles, with the encouragement of her parents and coaches, she focused on field events in high school. She also knew that field events had an objective reward system: results measured success.

"My parents poured their money and their funds into taking me to meets," Mohr said. "I knew track was probably the only opportunity I would have to pay for college. My family just didn't have the means."

Mohr's cumulative 4.0 GPA earned her valedictorian of Willapa Valley High. "But even that wasn't enough to pay for school," said Mohr, who received a scholarship offer from the Rainbow Wahine. "It was amazing that something I could pour my time into outside (of school) was able to get me here. And now (having) a bachelor's degree without debt is a huge blessing."

This year, Mohr focused on accuracy. At last year's Big West Championships, she was hurt by three throws that barely landed out of bounds. She made sure not to foul at any of this year's meets.

At this year's Big West meet, Mohr's fifth-of-six throws was 56.42 meters (181 feet, 1 inch)— 2 centimeters short of Novelle Murray's school record of 56.44 meters (185-2) set in 2007. She figured if she improved her right leg's torque and brought her left leg down quicker that would lead to a farther final throw. "I knew that (fifth) throw was a great throw, and I can make it a lot better," she said.

Mohr beat Murray's record by 1.81 meters (5 feet, 9 inches), ending a four-year quest.