Following a first-place finish at the 2014 national championships, senior javelin thrower Bethany Drake had to find the silver lining of being sidelined the next season because of an injury.
“I ended up getting a stress reaction in my back, which is a step before a stress fracture, in one of my vertebrae. It was an overuse injury,” Drake said. “I didn’t take enough time off and had to learn the lesson the hard way.”
Drake received a diagnosis in January 2015 and had to take three months off. She was told to not participate in any physical activity besides walking.
“My faith kept it from having too much of an impact one way or the other. It’s pretty exciting to have success, but it can also be a little bit scary and a little bit overwhelming sometimes.”
Bethany Drake, senior javelin thrower
“Coming off of 2014, I won the national championship for Division II in javelin and then competed at the U.S. championships that summer,” Drake said. “I really pushed myself and got this taste of when you work hard for something, this is what it feels like for it to pay off.”
After such a great season, taking any time off wasn’t even on her mind, Drake said. She took a break for about a week, and then started training for the next season.
After finding out about her injury, Drake was distraught. Many tears were shed. She said she felt mentally and emotionally lost.
“Those first few weeks were really hard. And that’s kind of where faith came into play. The fact of life is, I’m not going to be a javelin thrower forever,” Drake said.
This was a moment in Drake’s life where she had to take a step back and think about what life would be like after track and field.
Although it was one of the hardest seasons of her life, it allowed Drake to support her teammates, and appreciate her athleticism and ability to play.
“It wasn’t about me anymore, it was about them. I have some of the best memories from the last five years in that one season of sitting on the bench,” Drake said. “I got to live vicariously through everyone else for a season and had a blast. [It was] definitely very challenging to not be able to do anything, but I wouldn’t change it.”
Throughout her up-and-down career, Drake’s Christian faith has played a huge part in keeping her grounded.
“My faith kept it from having too much of an impact one way or the other. It’s pretty exciting to have success, but it can also be a little bit scary and a little bit overwhelming sometimes,” Drake said.
Drake admits her freshman year was a rollercoaster. She had some meets where she excelled, and some meets where she didn’t meet her own expectations.
“My emotions were all over the place. Sophomore year I wanted consistency. That was my goal for the year,” Drake said. “It’s a really cool feeling to be like, ‘I’m at this level. I’m capable of this,’ and I think it really developed confidence in me. I belong here and I’m capable.”
Drake was in fact able to maintain consistency throughout her sophomore year, which led her to the 2014 NCAA Division II national championships in Allendale, Michigan.
“I remember competing and thinking, ‘Okay, first throw, [I’m] just going to feel it out,’” Drake said. “It was a good throw, definitely not enough to win it, not even close, but I felt confident I could get there.”
There was a lot of mental preparation leading up to the meet, Drake said.
“I didn’t know if it was enough to necessarily win it at the time, and so it was a little bit surreal when everything had passed and it actually happened,” Drake said. “It was a pretty special feeling to be in that position.”
Some of her favorite memories as an athlete at Western come from her sophomore year.
“There were four of us throwing javelin that year, two guys, John Haskin and Slater Hirst, and [Katie] Reichert and I on the women’s side. The four of us were all totally into it,” Drake said.
From wearing Batman and Superman socks; kicking dandelions and having left-handed javelin throwing competitions, they goofed off a lot, but it’s what kept them going.
“I’ve always had people ask me ‘Don’t you miss having a social life?’ and I’m like ‘Well track is my social life,’ I love my teammates,’” Drake said. “I’m happy to spend hours-upon-hours with them. That season all four of us placed at nationals, we were all All-Americans which was cool to have all four of us end up on podiums.”
Some of Haskin’s favorite memories with Drake come from 3 to 4 hour practices, which is when Drake would crack a few jokes and have fun, Haskin said.
“[Practices] were so much fun. It was a real privilege to hang out with her on a daily basis, train, travel and watch her compete,” Haskin said. “She’s down to earth and pretty serious at times when practicing, but she’s in a different mindset when she competes. She will push herself so much further than anybody else and come out when you least expect it and dominate in the most amazing ways.”
Depending on how this season goes, Drake would like to keep throwing after graduation.
“I still have a passion for it and I still feel like I can grow and improve. Javelin is something I can’t just come back to later in life because your body gets old and not as capable,” Drake said. “So it’s a now-or-never kind of thing, and I still love it so I want to keep pursuing it.”
Drake is currently in the master’s program for secondary education at Western, and when she graduates this quarter, she would like to get her professional career started.
“One of the things I’m excited about [is] teaching at the high school level. I could potentially coach and connect those two areas of my life and have that full-circle balance,” Drake said.
With one month left in the regular season, Drake hopes to make it to nationals, which will be held May 25 to 27 in Bradenton, Florida.