SHIPPENSBURG The smile adorned across her face was the only way you'd know Williamsport senior Rachel Fatherly won yet another gold medal at the PIAA Championships on Saturday.
A day after capturing the Class AAA shot put title, Fatherly captured her second gold of the meet in what she considers her secondary event. He throw of 139 feet, 6 inches, was just off her personal best set a week ago at the District 4 meet, but it was good enough to best the field by nearly 10 feet.
But Fatherly walked around the staging area for the discus Saturday, cleaning up her towel and chair as if nothing special had happened. This wasn't the senior's main focus, this was just a nice bonus.
"When I started out, discus was not my favorite event," Fatherly said. "Hard work and coaching has gotten me to a 139. (Throwing coach Jeff Strohl) retaught me how to become a discus thrower."
Four years ago Fatherly was throwing distances in the 90-foot range as she worked on her own in the event. She qualified for states as a sophomore, but didn't even register a distance. And when she finished third as a junior a year ago, Fatherly knew there was potential.
She began adding some focus to the discus. Strohl taught her the proper way to throw it and she entered Saturday as the event's top seed after eclipsing 140 feet for the first time last week at the District 4 meet.
Her first throw Saturday 129 feet, 8 inches would have been good enough to win the event. Only North Pocono's Jenn Slagus reached the 129-foot mark. And only three others outside of those two reached the 120-foot mark on an oppressively hot day where fans and competitors alike were searching for any respite from the unforgiving sun.
That one throw from Slagus, which she hit on her final throw of the preliminaries, was all the motivation Fatherly needed. Strohl had advised Fatherly to just get a good throw around 130 out there in the preliminaries and then unload in the finals.
On her first throw of the finals, Fatherly unleashed the 139-6 that brought her mother, Theresa, to her feet with a shriek of joy.
"I think I was a little nervous at 129 because people were coming up so close," Fatherly said. "So I really wanted to put one out there and make people chase me. I needed something to push me. I knew I needed that mark because (Slagus) was right behind me, so I had to do it if I wanted to win."
Fatherly had her second state championship of the weekend clinched before she ever made her final throw. She tacked on a throw of 138-8 with her second finals throw, and nobody ever came close to it.
She walked around during the entire competition like she was walking around her living room, calm and comfortable as could be. There was no pressure. She already had one gold medal in her back pocket. This was just icing on the cake.
So while others seemed tight, struggling to find their rhythm with their spin, or struggling to find the proper release point, four of Fatherly's five marked throws were the top four throws of the competition.
"The nerves were gone and I figured this would just add on to what I had already accomplished," Fatherly said. "All the pressure was off. So I let it fly."