Tahoma's Ginny Mehl earns TNT female athlete of the year
Keith Eager just, somehow, knew.
The Tahoma High School track and field coach had already guided his sons, Derek and Brock, and watched them eventually throw at UCLA and Washington State, respectively, and he saw some of that in a freshman on Tahoma’s volleyball team — Ginny Mehl.
He approached her after a match, and tried to play it cool.
“(He’s) like, ‘Hey I heard you’re thinking about doing track,’” Mehl recalled. “You should do it— you’re going to be a thrower.’
“He saw potential.”
It didn’t take long for Eager’s vision to be realized.
Mehl won a state title in the shot put as a sophomore, all the while establishing herself as a top athlete in volleyball and basketball. She went on to earn 12 varsity letters and two state championships in track, which is why she was selected The News Tribune’s 2016-17 senior female athlete of the year.
Mehl is headed to the University of Washington’s track and field team on scholarship, although she could have continued to play volleyball or basketball in college. She said she turned down a volleyball scholarship from Gonzaga (among others) and a basketball scholarship from Pacific Lutheran University.
But she didn’t immediately buy into Eager’s throwing plans.
She came out for track, but focused on the 800 and 4x400 relay. She gravitated to running because she ran all the time as a soccer player in middle school.
Mehl didn’t fully accept throwing until her sophomore year … and then won the state shot put title.
“When I won that shot put title I was like, ‘OK, I think I’m a thrower now,’ ” Mehl said. “Definitely for basketball and volleyball, the athleticism transfers over in track, especially with weight lifting year round. That helps me a lot, too.”
In volleyball Mehl’s 6-foot-1 frame along with her ability to jump made her an instant standout.
And while basketball wasn’t her main sport, she was tenacious rebounder who was named team captain and earned all-league honors all four years.
“She does everything for us,” Tahoma girls basketball coach Pete Debolt said. “But probably more impressive is how well she gets along with her teammates. They all followed her and tried to mimic how she plays.”
Even during her volleyball and basketball seasons, she would still spend between two and three days a week meeting with Eager in the weight room after practice. She never missed a workout.
“She sets a great example on what it takes to be successful,” Eager said. “Her work ethic – I’ve never really seen her cut corners, she’s always on time. She gives her best at practice and works as hard as she can. She sets a great example for other people to follow.
“It’s leadership by example and not leadership by just talking.”
It’s why she became a dominant thrower, too.
Mehl and Kentlake’s Jordan Fong were the only athletes in the state to qualify for the 4A championships in all three throwing events — shot put, discus and javelin. But Mehl was the only one to place in the top two in all three, taking second in discus behind’s Moses Lake’s Elly Johnson and second in javelin behind Sumner’s Rhaven Dean.
And she claimed her second state title this spring, winning the shot put to help the Tahoma girls claim their first state team title.
As busy as she was, Mehl said she keeps it simple by focusing.
“I have a lot of time,” Mehl laughed. “People are like, ‘How do you do all of that stuff?’ I just focus on one sport a season.
“I just love sports. It’s who I am, I guess.”
Mehl knows the competition in college will be tougher. She believes her multi-sport background gives her an advantage now that she’s going to concentrate on track.
“I’m going to have that background of time management,” she said. “It’s not going to be easy, but I’m going to be more prepared to do it.”
Considering her ability to master different disciplines, it’s probably not a surprise Mehl is considering adding the hammer throw to her repertoire.
“I like them all,” Mehl said. “I couldn’t pick to this day which ones I’d want to do. I’ve had people go, ‘Why don’t you just focus on one?’ But it’s nice to have the events, especially in an all-day meet so if you don’t do well in one you can move on to the next.