The easiest way to track the location of Oakdale High thrower Hannah Chappell at the 2013 California Interscholastic Federation State Track and Field Championships in Clovis was to listen closely to the murmuring whispers that followed her every move.
“Is that the freshman?”
“She just threw 144 feet.”
“Yeah, that’s the kid.”
With some of the nation’s top college recruits and all of California’s best young athletes jostling for notoriety, Oakdale’s freshman discus sensation laced the sky above Veterans Memorial Stadium on the Buchanan High campus with spectacular heaves of the spinning saucer.
She landed a stunning 144 foot, 4 inch personal best on May 31 to break her own school record and qualify fourth to the event finals the next day. On June 1, she eclipsed the 134 foot mark four times and captured a boisterous 138-07 to end seventh in the state.
She was just six inches from a top-six medal, but left the elite state field with no regrets and a wake of impressed onlookers.
“Everybody was talking about her,” Oakdale throwing coach and Hannah’s father Brett Chappell said. “The attention just started to grow, but I didn’t let on that it was my kid.
“I was talking to coaches from Harvard and West Point, but I didn’t want it to be known that she was Daddy’s girl.”
But she certainly is.
With a small stature and lean limbs, Hannah hardly represents the stereotype of a hulking discus thrower. She’s only thrown for two years, but her progression is nothing short of spectacular. The consistent presence of her father, a former Fresno State thrower, is a certain asset.
“When your coach lives in your house, you are always going to get more training,” Hannah said. “I get to see more videos and all kinds of stuff to make me better.”
It’s a unique dynamic at home, but in competition, coach Chappell said his coaching role takes on a whole new persona of objective indifference. The state meet was no different, but carried with it the elation of success on the grandest scale for Hannah, and a little disappointment for Mustang junior Kyle Peterson, who won a Sac-Joaquin Masters discus title, but fell well short of his top marks at state (his 142-09 did not translate into a finals qualification).
“It was an awesome experience, but not just in a way of seeing your kid succeed,” Brett Chappell added. “Whether it had been Kyle or her, you just want them to compete and maximize every opportunity available to them.
“I get my gratification from seeing all of them do well.”
A maximized opportunity was clearly achieved by Hannah in her preliminary round. With only three throws to ensure advancement to the second day, Hannah soared to the top tier of the competition board with the 144-04 personal best on her third and final heave.
“I just kind of jumped and smiled a lot after that,” Hannah admitted. “It was my goal to make it to state, but once I got there I was thinking ‘Ok I am here, now let’s have some fun with it’.”
It was quite the spectacle and a happy sight for Oakdale track and field coach Dave Bacigalupi.
“It was exciting,” Bacigalupi said. “That has got to be one of the best seasons by a freshman.
“For freshmen to just go to state track in any event is phenomenal, especially in field events, because they are really difficult.”
Bacigalupi attributed the heroic finish to Hannah’s beautiful technique and strength.
The combination of the two and the likelihood of her increased power leave room for some exciting growth.
“I was really proud of myself this year,” Hannah said. “A lot of what I did has to do with speed training and strength, lifting — just a bunch of things that add to being a good thrower.
“I definitely want to try and hit 160 feet in distance (next year) as I am able to move up my lifting numbers.”
Hannah will take on the elite field of competition at the Golden West Invitational on the U.C. Berkeley campus on June 8 and 9. According to coach Chappell, the top competitors have a chance to win up to $500 in travel expenses.