May 13, 2005
Rachel Bertholf is a young woman on the way up in the world.
Having just graduated from Washington State University with a degree in marketing May 7, she is set to start her first post-collegiate job in Portland, Ore., sometime in mid-June. If there was a poll taken as to the senior Cougar student-athlete most likely to succeed outside the friendly confines of the Palouse, the affable Bertholf would certainly be among the top vote-getters.
Bertholf, pronounced berth-off, has thrown the javelin an NCAA Regional Qualifying distance of 164-feet, 4 inches this year which is the second-best mark in school history, fourth-best in the West Region, and 14th-best nationally this season. As a junior and a senior she was awarded the Cougar Pride Salute which honors 12 WSU student-athletes for their academic, athletic and community service. In awards given out at the WSU Senior Banquet May 6, Bertholf won the 2005 Senior Excellence in Academics as presented by Avista, and the 2005 PROWL Team CARE Award for community service and support of WSU's NCAA Lifeskills program.
She is the women's track and field team captain and graduated with a cumulative grade point average above 3.75. Last year Bertholf was named to the United States Track Coaches Association national Div. I All-Academic Team as well as to the 2004 Pac-10 All-Academic First Team. Bertholf has also been active in community service including being a Reading Buddy at a Pullman grade school, participating in three track charity car washes, working with the Associated Students of Washington State University (ASWSU), being a member of the College of Business Marketing Research Team 2003-04, and serving as a peer-counselor for freshmen student-athletes in the Pac-10 advising program.
But her days between classes ending and working fulltime will not be filled with leisure or vacation travel. Bertholf will make three trips in the next four weeks, traveling to Westwood, Calif., Eugene, Ore., and Sacramento, Calif.: sites of the Pacific-10 Conference Track & Field Championships, the NCAA West Region Track & Field Championships, and the NCAA Track & Field Championships. Her goal is to become an All-America javelin thrower and maybe set a school record along the way.
As a girl, Bertholf spent her school days playing volleyball, basketball and high jumping, long jumping and triple jumping during the track season. Her summers were spent at the family lake cabin with older brother Chris and twin sister Kim water skiing, wind surfing, and wake boarding. During her sophomore year at Mt. Spokane High School she tore her ACL and that started the end to her jumping career.
"I first picked up the javelin ten practice days before districts of my junior year. They needed girls to compete at the meet," Bertholf said. "I threw 80-feet my first time and then they taught me how to throw. My senior year my shins and knees hurt too bad to continue jumping. I was throwing javelin consistently in the 120-foot range."
Liking the javelin event more and more, Bertholf contacted the WSU track coaches through the website because she knew she wanted, "Division I, in-state and I wasn't a Husky." Throws coach Debra Farwell contacted Bertholf and told the prep novice that until she threw over 130-feet, Farwell couldn't even consider having her join the Cougs.
"The next weekend I totally skipped the 130s and threw 140-feet," Bertholf said. "I called Debra up and said, `okay, now what?'"
Farwell remembers, "Rachel was tall, athletic and she had only competed in the javelin for a season and a half so she was very young at the event and had a decent mark coming in."
After years of being the "twins" and competing through grades and sports and boys, Rachel and her twin sister Kim had reached the point where they felt the need to establish their own identities.
"We love each other but it got to the point where we need to venture out and figure out our own world," Bertholf said. Since my brother was already on the track team at Pacific Lutheran, Kim visited and that felt right for her."
Kim Bertholf was a quarter-miler and a team captain at PLU. She is staying in the Seattle area post-graduation, using her marketing degree in the fashion industry.
Freshman year at WSU, Bertholf threw the javelin a personal-best of 150-10, improved to 155-8 her sophomore season for a sixth place finish at the NCAA West Regional meet but missed a trip to the national championships by two inches. During her junior season, Bertholf's best toss was only 150-3 which was seventh place at the NCAA West Regional.
So what prompted the nearly 10-foot PR as a senior? Three things are sure: the weight room, the deadline and Jenna Dean.
Both Bertholf and Farwell agree that one big change from previous years has been Bertholf's weight room work with strength and conditioning coach Matt Ludwig.
"He brought her strength level to where it needs to be in a very short amount of time," Farwell said. "And that has made a huge difference with her. Kudos to Matt Ludwig."
Bertholf concurs, "Matt Ludwig changed everything about what I was doing in the weight room. He worked with us, side-by-side, cheering us on."
As a senior and competing in an outdoor-only event, the clock is ticking for reaching personal goals.
"I think I do my best under pressure," said Bertholf. "My coach is very good at figuring that out. She'll challenge me or tell me she doesn't think I can do it and I say, `I'll show you.'"
Coach Farwell agrees, "She's just graduated, has a job and has nothing left to focus on at WSU with the exception of track and field. She knows she has five weeks left and then this is over. This has been a dream for her and her ultimate dream will be to have that NCAA All-American certificate hanging on her wall."
And finally there is the matter of a teammate reaching your goal. Cougar sophomore Jenna Dean broke the WSU school javelin record in the opening meet of the 2005 outdoor season at Tucson with her toss of 169-7.
"That was the hardest meet I've ever had to deal with mentally," Bertholf recalls. "We have the same goals of trying to break the school record and be number one. It was hard because I was throwing well at that meet but it was overlooked because she threw so well. It was a humbling moment but okay for me to take a back seat and let her have the spotlight. She is one of the biggest reasons I'm doing well this year because we both push each other and we are continuously critiquing each other. We are very good friends so it is a friendly rivalry but it helps because I am very competition-responsive. My biggest competition is standing right next to me. What can I do every day to beat her? It's a lot of fun."
One month after Dean's record throw, Bertholf launched the second-best javelin in school history, winning the University/Open flight at the Mt. SAC Relays with her toss of 164-4.
"Rachel has an ability to turn off everything around her when she's on the track and when she does that things come together," Farwell said. "She has the ability to really focus. Not too many athletes that can do that. They say they can focus but Rachel has the ability to truly do that. When you tell her to make a change in her technique she has the ability to adjust it."
Being highly coachable enhances Bertholf's role as team captain. She admits to leading by example in place of a lot of vocalization. She cites hard work both academically and athletically, following team rules and being a mentor to younger members of the team as her goals as a captain. She models her actions after Eric Dudley, former All-American intermediate hurdler, who was a team captain and her Pac-10 peer counselor when she was a freshman.
"This year's team is my favorite team of all four years because we have some great personalities and some great young kids who are going to be a major influence on the success of the team," Bertholf said. "It's hard to follow in the footsteps of Ellannee and Whitney (Evans) and Dudley but good role models produce good teams."
Bertholf readily admits to having the All-American goal even in high school and that end is now in sight.
"Now that everything else is completed, I can focus strictly on one thing," she said. "I am a goal-oriented person so I know that this is my time to reach that goal."
"Rachel probably wasn't the most gifted athlete coming in, but because of her work ethic she brought herself to the level she is at now," Farwell said. "And because of her work ethic she'll probably be an NCAA All-American."