Finding ways to motivate Chari Hawkins isn’t too tough.
When Utah State track coach Gregg Gensel really wants to push his star junior pentathlete, he can casually mention to her that he doesn’t think she can do something.
Hawkins to NCAAs
Utah State junior Chari Hawkins, who won the Mountain West championship in pentathlon, will compete at nationals. The event at the Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque, N.M., will begin at 11:45 a.m. MT with 60-meter hurdles and wrap around 5 p.m. with the 800-meter run.
"You have to stay positive with Chari mostly, but sometimes I’ll say, ‘Well, I guess that’s as far as you can jump,’" he said. "I learned when she was a freshman not to put barriers on her. She’ll prove you wrong."
After taking a hiatus last year from the winter season, Hawkins has been nothing short of brilliant for the Aggies this year. She’s reset the school record in pentathlon several times already through the course of the season, reached new personal bests in her events, and emerged as the best athlete in the Mountain West conference.
It’s not an exaggeration: Hawkins was named the most outstanding female performer at the Mountain West championships, where she set a championship record in the pentathlon by scoring 4,173 points. The score is ranked No. 8 in the country this season.
Now she seeks to bring that success to NCAA nationals, where she’ll be competing against the nation’s best Saturday in Albuquerque, N.M. It’s nothing new to her: Hawkins was an All-American in heptathlon in the 2013 outdoor championships, finishing 11th.
Not that she’s treating it as been-there, done-that.
"I don’t think competing with the best in the nation ever really gets old," she said. "I’m really excited and grateful to be there, and it’s really humbling."
Unlike the spring, the indoor multi events all take place in one day: 60-meter hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put and the 800-meter run. It requires a lot of calories in the morning and a lot of careful energy budgeting throughout the event.
The offseason was an important one for Hawkins, who worked hard on her weakest event: shot put. She set a personal best by four feet in the conference championship. She also cut a few tenths of a second from her hurdles — a huge advantage in a short event.
"I was really surprised by every single one of my events and some of the strides I’ve made," she said. "When I’ve needed to excel in a certain event, I’ve been able to do it. And I feel like I’ve made great strides in each."
Mentally, Hawkins has grown as well, her coach says. That could be the key in Hawkins having a big weekend when a national title is on the line.
"I think she’s learned to do what she can do, and be confident it will be enough," Gensel said. "She’s learned she doesn’t need to be an Olympic-level shot put thrower, she can just do what she can do. And she’s been through struggles this year, but still done well. And I think that gives her confidence knowing that she’s still capable of so much more."
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