GOING THE DISTANCE: Trinity four-year thrower wraps up career

For The Tribune

Trinity Lutheran’s Rachel Onken is one of those athletes who feels that being in one sport can definitely help you in another sport.

She has been a club gymnast for several years.

“As a gymnast, I’ve always really enjoyed using my upper body strength to do lifting and stuff, so I thought I would be pretty good at doing the (track) throwing events because I know that involves a lot of upper-body strength,” she said. “So when I came out freshman year, my coach actually thought I was going to be a runner, and he was kind of shocked to see that I wanted to be a thrower instead, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

“My brother (Luke) was in track, and I knew a lot of people who were going out for track, so I thought it would be a nice experience with my friends, so that is the reason I decided to go out for track.”

She was not on a track team prior to her freshman year at Trinity Lutheran and has been a thrower during her days with the Cougars.

“I like the discus a lot more (than shot put),” she said. “The way you get into a discus, the spinning for a discus, I like that a lot more because it reminds me even of dancing, so it comes more natural for me. It’s all basically one motion, and you really have to focus on lots of different things at once, which is something I’m very used to. So I think that is why discus is my favorite of the two.”

She said the launch angle depends on the wind speeds.

“I have to decide when I get there if I’m going to be using a rubber disc or a red disc or a blue disc,” Onken said. “The difference between those is that the red disc and the blue disc have different rim weights, so I’ll decide which one I’m going to use for which one is actually going to fly further.”

She said it is just repetition until it just comes naturally.

Her best throw was 96 feet, 10 inches, which she threw in the sectional.

She said her goal going into the season was to break the school record of 99 feet, but because of robotics and Academic Super Bowl, she wasn’t able to compete in several meets.

With the shot put, she said she liked to glide across the ring.

“Discus is a lot more hip, and I would say shot is a lot more shoulder,” Onken said. “My coach tried to get me to throw shot a little bit better, and he helped me a lot with my hips and stuff. It’s just muscle memory.”

Onken said with more throwers on the teams this spring, the discus and shot put rings were always busy during practice.

“A lot of times, I would pull my coach aside after practice and ask if we could practice a little bit more on discus, and then I could go out there by myself with three or four discs and I could just constantly throw them and work on my technique and stuff,” she said.

Outside of school, she said she has enjoyed being a gymnast.

“There is a lot of repetition involved in going over your skills in gymnastics until you finally master them,” Onken said. “Gymnastics has been part of my life since I was 8. My favorite event before my injury was vault. Now, it’s probably bars. I’ve been able to compete in club gymnastics since fourth grade. I was able to compete at the state competition every single time that I was not injured.

“My sophomore year, I qualified for the regional, which was held in Ohio. This year, I’m going to nationals in Tennessee (at the end of June).”

The senior has enjoyed her time at Trinity.

“I knew it was a solid school,” Onken said. “I am involved in a lot of activities. I think it has helped me a lot to really bring in my range of the subjects I know. At Trinity, you can really do whatever you want, and you’re free to do anything you want. You’re not restricted to do one certain activity. I wanted the Lutheran education, as well.

“I think what I’m going to remember the most is the friendships, especially in track. In the meets especially, there is a lot of interacting with my fellow peers. Those are the moments I’m going to remember the most.”

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Name: Rachel Onken

School: Trinity Lutheran High School

Parents: Lance and Carol Onken

Siblings: Sarah, Seth and Luke

Sport: Track and field, four years

Organizations: National Honor Society, band, student government, dance committee, robotics, yearbook, Student Ambassadors, Academic Super Bowl, events team

Plans after high school: Attend Purdue University

Favorite food: Mashed potatoes

Favorite TV show: “Impractical Jokers”