Utah State: Heptathlete Chari Hawkins pushing herself toward top
Track and field • Drive to succeed led Hawkins to multi-event competition, top-15 ranking in nation.
Published: May 7, 2013 02:51PM
Updated: May 8, 2013 12:05AM
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Chari Hawkins competes in hurdles at a meet. Hawkins is currently the No. 15 ranked heptathlete in the nation, and recently set Utah State's program record in the event. Photo by Stanley Brewster

Logan • She loved flying around the basketball court, hitting shots from beyond the arc.

She was a talented setter on the volleyball team, an unselfish player who set up her friends for points.

But the opponent Chari Hawkins has always liked beating the most is herself. That’s why track appealed to her: the chance to set new records, then break them all over again.

Never being satisfied. Always pushing for that extra inch on her high jump, or that extra second off her 800 time.

“I love that sense of accomplishment when you can see the results from the effort you put into something,” the Utah State sophomore said. “Even if you don’t beat everyone else, and you set your personal best, that’s a good day.”

It was that drive that pushed her into track, but Hawkins couldn’t be contained to just one discipline. That’s why she’s a heptathlete for the Aggies today — one of the best in the nation, actually.

Three weeks ago, Hawkins set her personal bests in the 800-meter run, the high jump and the long jump. She just figured she was having a good day. But by the end of the Mt. SAC Relays, Hawkins would blow away the school record for points in the heptathlon by more than 100, and her score of 5,441 is the 15th-best mark in Division I track this season.

“We knew she had that potential, but we thought she wouldn’t do these kinds of things for a few more years,” says coach Gregg Gensel. “The thing that amazes me is how good of an athlete she really is. She doesn’t think she’s that great — she is, but she doesn’t go around telling people about it.”

When a coach first asked Hawkins —then a prep star at Madison High in Idaho — if she was interested in heptathlon, she thought he was making up a word.

As it turned out, it wasn’t a far stride from her strengths. She was a standout high jumper, long jumper and hurdler, which are three of the best-scoring events. Growing up as the youngest of five children with athletically inclined parents, she had spent her childhood trying a vast range of pursuits: dance class, gymnastics, basketball and volleyball.

What stood out then was how quickly Hawkins could pick things up and excel.

“She’s just fluid and smooth,” says Andrew Blaser, her heptathalon coach. “You watch her long jump, and she’s not trying to be a long jumper, she just is one.”

Hawkins goes through her regimen aggressively, which is a full week of weight lifting and hardcore conditioning, along with trying to work on at least three disciplines every day. The greatest concern, Gensel said, is that sometimes she overtrains.

Her best event is high jump, where she’s tied for 56th best nationally. She struggles in the shot put, but still dedicates a lot of time to it.

Hawkins hardly seems the ultracompetitive type on the exterior, bubbly and outgoing. She says one of the things she likes the most about track is that she loves supporting her teammates in their events, while drawing support in her own.

But that still conceals a serious athlete, someone who wants to keep seeing records fall, someone who could go onto nationals if she can improve on her results in this week’s WAC championship.

The thing she tries to remember before she competes is that it’s not just a competition — she enjoys it, too.

“I just have to relax, because sometimes I get really uptight when I compete,” Hawkins said. “It’s too hard not to have fun.”

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon

Chari Hawkins file

• The sophomore is the Aggies’ record holder in the heptathlon (5,441).

• Her score is 15th best in Division I track this season.

• Hawkins hopes to win the WAC heptathlon title this week; she won it in 2011.