May 24, 2002 11:00 pm
TRACK TRIO: (From left) Joe, Jenny and Kristin Brogdon have kept track and field success in the family. (Submitted photo).
TRACK TRIO: (From left) Joe, Jenny and Kristin Brogdon have kept track and field success in the family. (Submitted photo).

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Joe Brogdon never got away from track and field after he stopped throwing the javelin in college. He has coached the sport for 26 years, first in Baker City then in La Grande, and watched his two daughters take it up — and excel.

So it wasn't much of a shock when the La Grande High School assistant coach picked up a spear last summer and threw it 164 feet, 4 inches at a masters meet in Eugene.

That ranked him eighth in the United States in the M50 age group, 18th in the world.

"I wasn't really surprised because he always talked about it," said his youngest daughter, Kristin, a junior on the LHS team who will compete in the high jump and triple jump today in Eugene at the Class 3A state meet.

"My kids got a kick out of seeing me throw because they've never seen me throw," Joe said.

Success in the field events isn't unusual for the Brogdons, and last weekend they piled on more accolades. Kristin won the high jump at the Greater Oregon League meet in Vale and qualified for state in the triple jump.

On the same weekend, at the Pac-10 meet in Pullman, Wash., older sister Jenny set a personal record of 5 feet, 9 inches in the high jump to finish second in the conference for Oregon.

Kristin, who has gone 5-3, was impressed.

"Wow! I thought she could do it," she said.

Jenny was a two-time high school state champion in the high jump. Her high school best of 5-6 got her a scholarship to Oregon, where she has competed the last three years.

Joe's daughters took up his sport because it was more individualistic — as he said, "There's no one in your face.

"It's one of the few sports in which there is no defense, and the only defense is basically your physical conditioning," he said.

Over the years, through working with his student-athletes, Brogdon kept himself in enough shape to give the javelin another try. He had thrown at the University of Idaho from 1971 to 1973 and hit around 218 feet.

Last summer, he hadn't thrown competitively in 28 years, yet he beat out throwers who follow the masters circuit and compete all summer.

"I just showed up at the meet and threw the spear six times. I really didn't do anything too much different than the way I work out with the kids," he said.

His national ranking was a surprise, but he doesn't take much from it.

"I guess what I take from that is a lot of the old guys don't throw anymore.

"I've been coaching, that's the whole deal. The key to something is not getting away from it. I don't train to compete, I just work with the kids."

Having his daughters in the sport helped, but don't expect Joe to start competing more often. He's happier watching his daughters and other students compete.

Former La Grande coach "Doc Savage told me something several years ago that clicked with me," he said. "When you're younger, you train to compete. When you're older, you train not to get hurt.

"I truly don't train at all. It's just working with the kids. That's where my investment is."