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Henderson excels with javelin

By Adam Troxtell
On April 7, 2010

Most athletes on the A&M-Commerce track and field team compete in events normally associated with the sport in the southern United States. They compete in events like hurdles, sprints, long distances, discus and shot put. However, one of the women athletes has picked up a different forte: javelin.

"When I first came, our old coach wanted me to be a heptathlete," junior Sunny Henderson said. "We've had several coaches since I've been here, so I never got to do the heptathlon. I just picked up javelin and started throwing one day. It was easy enough, so I stayed with it."

Henderson came to A&M-Commerce from Daingerfield High School, where she was a part of track, volleyball and tennis, and finished fourth in the state in 100-meter hurdles. She said she came to A&M-Commerce after a little persuasion.

"I had offers other places, but then I came for a student recruitment day," she said. "I got to hang out with the coach, and he showed me around campus and I got to meet all the people. I just fell in love with it, I guess. In high school, we always had our regional meet here, so the coach had been talking to me since I was a junior."

The coach was Pat Ponder, and Henderson said he also influenced her decision to begin throwing the javelin.

"Whenever I came for freshman orientation, our old coach brought me a javelin," she said. "I had never even seen one, and he was like ‘Here you go.'"

She was also influenced by her father, Roger Henderson, who was a thrower on the Louisiana Tech track team. Henderson said her father has been a big part of her progress in the sport, and provides great support.

"He was always there through high school helping, and he'd even coach the throwers at my high school," she said. "I went to a little 3-A school, and he'd come out and help and run the meets for us. He's always been my number one fan."

Henderson still began life on the A&M-Commerce track and field team as a runner. She began running the 100-meter hurdles, but had to stop because of a knee injury.

"I came to hurdle, and then I got hurt my freshman year, so I never quite got back to it," Henderson said. "It's kind of hard to get back, especially at the collegiate levels because there are so many people that are just naturally talented. Once you're gone, you're gone."

After returning from the injury, Henderson stuck with javelin throwing and has achieved some success in the event. She finished fourth at the Lone Star Conference championships in 2008 and 2009 in javelin.

"It's all technique," she said. "There's really no power. It's all in your arms and your legs. I have no upper body strength at all, and I can throw it further than most of the hefty girls throw it."

Henderson said she enjoys track because she likes the individuality of it. For her, it is easier to thrive in an individual sport.

"Just track as a whole, I like it because it's so individual," she said. "When you are on a team and your team wins, you feel good about it, but it was a team effort. In track, it's just you. It's easier to make yourself better in an individual sport. You are more motivated to do well at individual sports than in team sports. If you have team, ‘They'll cover my mistake.' It's all you in track."

Since Henderson has been at A&M-Commerce, she said she has experienced many changes at the track and field coaching position. She said this has affected the team negatively when it comes to performance.

"When you have a different coach, they have different styles of coaching," she said. "So you'll get used to someone for a semester and how they do things and be doing that workout, and then you have another coach that comes in. They are either more intense or less intense. It throws you off, and that's why we've struggled for the past couple of years."

Current women's head track coach Sara Davis said Henderson is a devoted member of her team.

"She's a great athlete, she loves throwing," Davis said. "She's dedicated to the javelin, and passionate about getting it right and doing it well."

After this season, Henderson has one more season as a Lion. She said she hopes to achieve her ultimate goal in javelin before she has to say goodbye.

"Hopefully, I'll win conference next year, and if all goes well I'll be all-American this year and next year, as well," she said.

Beyond that, Henderson is looking at a coaching career. As a kinesiology major, she hopes to coach at a high school, while also teaching a physical education class.

"Once it gets up into the collegiate level, it's more about the money than the passion," Henderson said. "I think there's more passion at the lower levels when it comes to wanting to compete, from what I've seen."

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