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Hammering home

Well-traveled Mantecan returning to T&F nationals

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Hammering home

Amy Haapanen, a 2002 graduate of East Union High, is hoping to improve on last year's sixth-place finish in the hammer throw in the 2010 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Drake Universit...


POSTED June 22, 2010 2:44 a.m.
STOCKTON — Amy Haapanen is returning home later this week.

Sort of.

These days, it’s tough to identify where home actually is.

The 2002 East Union High graduate and native of Manteca is off to Des Moines, Iowa today to get settled in for the 2010 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which takes place Wednesday through Sunday at Drake University.

Haapanen, 26, is making her fourth appearance at nationals and will compete in the hammer throw Saturday.

After a decorated career at UC Santa Barbara, where she set program records in three throwing events while earning NCAA All-America honors her senior year, Haapanen followed former UCSB throws coach John Dagata to Iowa to resume her training.

Dagata was named the assistant track and field coach at Iowa State, but last August he was selected to be the head athletics coach for the Welsh national team.

Since leaving Ames, Iowa in October, Haapanen has alternated residence in Manteca and Wales and even spent two weeks of April at a sports resort in Portugal to train alongside Dagata’s Welsh athletes and other world-class professionals from around the world.

“I’m kind of a hobo,” Haapanen joked while taking a break from practice at Delta College’s hammer-throw ring Monday.

Jumping from site to site just to train is part of the territory, Haapanen said, but she considers herself to be fortunate.

While some professional hammer throwers across the nation struggle to find open rings to train on, Haapanen got the thumbs up from the Delta College and Modesto Junior College track coaches to practice at their facilities. Last year, she prepared for nationals at East Union.

“The coaches at Delta and MJC have been very welcoming, and the people at East Union just kind of say, ‘Hey, come by whenever,’” Haapanen said. “The people at 24-Hour Fitness (in Manteca) have been very generous in letting me work out at their place.

“I’ve been lucky here in the Central Valley, but it will always be a challenge, especially for hammer throwers. It’s been an adjustment having to move around a lot and figure out how and where to train.”

Haapanen has done more than train in her time back in Manteca.

She competed in the 68th California Invitational Relays (formerly the Modesto Relays) at Sacramento City College’s Hughes Stadium on May 29, setting a personal record of 65.19 meters for a third-place finish.

On June 6, in the Jim Bush Southern California/USATF West Regional Championships at Mount San Antonio College, she bested her previous record three times and topped out at 66.00 (216 feet, 6 inches) — a mark that has her seeded sixth at nationals this week.

“I’ve been in some local meets just to sort of test the engine,” she said. “I ended up doing real well.”

Last year’s national runner-up, Amber Campbell, is the favorite with a seeded mark of 71.94. Britney Henry (71.27) and Stevi Large (68.88) follow as the No. 2 and 3 seeds.

The USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships will be aired on ESPN and NBC. Real-time footage can also be viewed online at

“My goal is to keep improving,” Haapanen said. “I want to set another PR, and I also want to improve my standing. I ended up sixth last year, so I want to end up top five this year.

“I’m just going to try and work my way up the ladder and continue to work hard.”

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