By Josh Bronson

Pilot staff writer

It's rare when a small town athlete gets the opportunity to make an impact at a major university.

But for the past several years, Brookings-Harbor High School (BHHS) graduate Inger Appanaitis has been making her way to the top in the track and field world at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Appanaitis has qualified for all four throwing events - javelin, hammer throw, discus and shot put - for the upcoming NCAA Outdoor West Regional Championships at Cal-State Northridge Friday and Saturday, May 30 and 31.

andquot;She's just a rarity in general,andquot; UNR throwing coach T.J. Crater said. andquot;As an athlete and as a person.andquot;

Crater is in his first year as throwing coach for the Wolfpack and knew Appanaitis was a physical specimen when he arrived.

andquot;Her strength levels were very impressive,andquot; Crater said. andquot;My goal was to improve her runway approach in the javelin and work on her speed.andquot;

The javelin is Appanaitis' strongest event - she qualified for the Olympic Trials at the Western Athletic Conference Championships - but Crater wanted to work on the other three events as well.

andquot;I thought she was underachieving in the other three events,andquot; Crater said. andquot;So we just started working on fundamentals and tried to improve her technically.andquot;

Besides her physical prowess, Appanaitis relies on her strength of mind to help her through the grueling challenges of being a collegiate thrower.

andquot;Sometimes I feel a lot of pressure or I get too excited and do things I'm not supposed to,andquot; Appanaitis said. andquot;There's a lot of mental training that goes into track because it's one of those rare individual sports.andquot;

Appanaitis tries to keep a positive mind set when competing - realizing that sometimes you just have a bad day.

andquot;I'd like to think I have a pretty good outlook,andquot; Appanaitis said. andquot;If I'm having a bad day in one event, I know I'll do better in another event. Overall, I have a pretty good base, mentally and physically.andquot;

While attending BHHS, Appanaitis didn't have college aspirations for the sport she enjoyed.

andquot;Track was fun for me,andquot; Appanaitis said. andquot;I wasn't too worried about it.andquot;

But when she was offered a chance to throw at UNR, Appanaitis couldn't help but say yes.

andquot;I never would have imagined throwing at a D-I school,andquot; Appanaitis said. andquot;Then I got the offer from UNR, my eyes lit up and I jumped on it.andquot;

Although Appanaitis was surprised at the offer from the Wolfpack, BHHS throwing coach Terry Axel wasn't.

andquot;Out of all the kids I had, you could see it in Inger the most,andquot; Axel said. andquot;Because of her drive, you're thinking 'one day, maybe she has a shot.'andquot;

After she concludes her magnificent collegiate career this weekend and participates in the Olympic Trials, Appanaitis will help Crater train incoming throwers in the UNR program.

andquot;With her knowledge of the throws, she'll be a really great asset to help me with the large group of freshmen throwers we have coming in,andquot; Crater said.

Appanaitis credits Crater with much of her improvement over the last year.

andquot;Coach has been a big part of my success,andquot; Appanaitis said. andquot;T.J. is a really great guy and he convinced me to stick around and help train.andquot;

Appanaitis will help train other members of the Wolfpack, but will also continue to compete in the javelin and work toward becoming one of the top javelin throwers in the country.

andquot;I'm excited to see what I can do if I'm just a javelin thrower,andquot; Appanaitis said.