Things looked pretty bleak for Kimery Hern in December 2004.
She had broken her arm and the college recruiting offers for the young South Whidbey High School senior began to dry up.
Hern is a thrower in the discus and the hammer, but no school wants to provides a scholarship for a young lady with a busted wing.
Except Georgia Tech — they were willing to take a chance.
“They offered me a 25 percent scholarship and a free trip to Atlanta to check out the school and meet head coach Allan Bradd,” Hern recalled. “My whole life had been on the West Coast and I saw this as a chance to experience another part of the country.”
“I was very impressed with the campus and the coach’s training philosophy and I felt it would be a good fit,” she said.
And so it was. Two years later, Hern has a “full ride” scholarship to cover the balance of her college years as she studies courses in business management.
And her personal best scores have improved. As a freshman she threw the hammer 172-5; in the 2006-07 Atlantic Coast Conference, Hern threw 197-7 for a Ramblin’ Wreck record.
The hammer is basically a shotput attached by a 4-foot-long wire to a handle. Hern has the mechanics down — she expertly pivots four times, left foot never leaving the ground — before hurling the 8.8-pound ball as far as possible. But the competition can be fierce.
“One thing that came as a surprise was how good the other throwers were, especially as I’d been a state champion in high school,” she said.
However, Hern arrived at Georgia with a big advantage. She had trained with Falcon throwing coach Jeff Greene and was better prepared for the regimen she found in Atlanta.
“A lot of high school athletes don’t realize the importance of weight training at the college level,” she said.
Lifting weights helps the body be quicker, faster, stronger and more explosive; all college sports, including golf, tennis and running emphasize training with weights, Hern added.
A typical day has her attending classes from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. before heading outside — the weather’s so good, there are no indoor facilities in the entire state — for throw practice, weight lifting and speed and agility runs with her five teammates.
“By that time our bodies are dead,” Hern said. She said all good athletes need to develop confidence and learn to adapt to the style of their coach and teammates.
Other than Accounting 2 (she passed but it wasn’t easy; the final exam lasted four long hours), her classes have been challenging but doable.
“I’m a firm believer that a college education is as hard as you want to make it. If you don’t go to class and don’t read the assignments, you won’t pass,” she said.
Hern, who came to the island in the second grade from California, said she appreciates growing up on Whidbey because of its sheer beauty. The primary downside is gossip.
“Everybody knows everything, or think they do and that can get a little old,” she said. “But I really appreciate all the support I’ve gotten over the years.”
As the home of Coca-Cola, CNN and over a half million people, Atlanta isn’t the small country-style burg she was expecting.
“It’s a major business and commercial capital for the southeast. But people smile and wave when you walk down the street,” Hern said. “There’s a lot of truth to southern hospitality.”
“Living and working here is a big difference from the island. It isn’t as pretty, but then it doesn’t rain as much,” she said.
Doug Fulton, Hern’s former track coach, recalled his former student’s glory years as a Falcon when she was named most valuable performer in her junior and senior seasons.
Hern also earned four letters in track and field plus league and district titles as a senior.
She posted a first-place finish in the hammer throw at the Washington Meet of Champions in 2005 with a mark of 165-03.
“Kimery held the state hammer record until this year,” Fulton said. “She was a great all-around athlete with a positive attitude; I remember Kimery being an incredibly hard worker as well.”
It will take lots of hard work for Hern to meet her next challenge — qualifying for a berth on the U.S. Olympic team.
“Everyone needs an attainable goal in life and that’s mine,” she said.
Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.