National champion.

That rings awfully sweet to Mackenzii Phillips, a Douglas High School junior-to-be who earned a title in the girls 15-16 javelin at the USATF Hershey National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships last Saturday in Sacramento, California.

The 16-year-old, a three-sport athlete at Douglas who lives in Lookingglass, had a winning mark of 132 feet, 1 inch (40.25 meters) at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium.

Jade Kwinn, representing Tucson Elite Athletic, finished second in the event with a throw of 128-10. Kyeese Hollands of Albina Roadrunners placed third (126-9).

“It means a lot to me, because I know how much work and time I’ve put into my event,” Phillips said Tuesday. “It absolutely means the world, especially having all my family, friends and the community back me up on everything. They’ve just been so helpful.

“Winning nationals was a major blow out of the water. I’m being as humble as I can about it, but I’m also kind of bragging myself up since I’ve won nationals. It’s kind of amazing.”

The 5-foot-9 Phillips, the daughter of Hilary and Danny Phillips, had a series of 114-11, 125-2, 132-1, 121-7, 123-6 and foul. She took the lead for good on her third throw.

“My expectation was just to throw as best as I can to my ability,” Phillips said. “I was the top seed going in, so I knew I had a chance of winning. It was helpful having everyone throw before me and knowing what their marks were. I didn’t feel the greatest about my series, but felt I didn’t have the full potential to warm up adequately since we were all corraled in one area.

“We were in separate flights, so we were basically sitting around the whole time. I don’t crumble under pressure, I thrive under it. I felt OK about my mark (132-1).”

Phillips said the conditions were very humid and well over 100 degrees.

“The heat was mainly about staying hydrated,” she said. “I was focused on nationals and throwing, not the heat. It felt hot, but not unbearable. I do think the heat affected the marks.”

Phillips was hoping to break her personal record of 139-8 set during the high school season in the spring.

“Winning was definitely the No. 1 priority, but a PR was on the table,” she said with a smile. “I had a deal with mom. If I won and PR’d, I’d get a puppy. Sadly I didn’t get a puppy.”

The national crown capped off a successful year of throwing for Phillips, who captured her second straight Oregon state title in the javelin. She threw 137-7 in the Class 3A meet at Mt. Hood Community College in May, finishing more than 13 feet ahead of the runner-up.

“To say I won state as a freshman (in 2018) was mind-boggling, then to be a two-time state champion (in 2019) ... then to pull out a win and become a champion at nationals is amazing,” Phillips said. “I’m thankful for all the opportunities I’ve been given.”

Phillips, who picked up the javelin in the eighth grade, plans to throw in college. She seems like an ideal candidate for the heptathlon, a track and field combined events competition made up of seven events. Phillips finished fourth in the heptathlon with 3,462 points at the Region 13 meet in 2018.

But the javelin is her love.

“It’s kind of funny to say it,” she replied, when asked what she digs about the event. “It’s nice to be able to throw something really far, especially growing up in an area where there’s a lot of boys. All of them play football and throw objects. It’s kind of funny they can see me as one of those people who can throw farther than them sometimes.

“It’s one of those events you can’t find anywhere else. The javelin has so much technique and thought in it, and it’s a demanding event. It pays off at the end and makes you feel happy about yourself.”

Phillips will take a break from track and turn her attention toward volleyball. High school volleyball practice begins on Aug. 19.

She also plays basketball for the Trojans. Phillips made the Far West League All-Defensive Team as a sophomore.

Tom Eggers can be reached at teggers@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4220.

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Sports Editor

Tom Eggers is the sports editor for The News-Review. He can be reached at teggers@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4220.

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