Wednesday, January 24, 2018
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Crystal Hartman on the Rise with Raiders

When an athlete excels at something in high school, the hope is that, when that person matriculates to college, one of the coaches there will have a background in that event. Maybe even be a former All-American.

That’s the case with Crystal Hartman.

In her years with the Ephrata High School girls track and field team, she competed in a number of events, but the javelin was her best and she finished fourth (2014) and seventh (2013) in the PIAA championships.

Hartman decided to go to Shippensburg University, and one of the main reasons was because of assistant coach Kurt Dunkel, who in his days competing with the Raiders was a two-time All-American in the javelin, finishing second at the Division II outdoor championships in both 1997 and 1998.

“Prior to committing to college, I attended a throwing camp at SU in which he assisted in teaching techniques to the eager javelin throwers and I just really liked the way he broke things down for me,” Hartman said.

Dunkel was happy to have her in the program.

“I thought Crystal could make some strides in college because I saw a few areas in which she could make some improvements,” he said.

Steady progress

It didn’t take long for Hartman to benefit from Dunkel’s coaching. As a freshman, she finished fifth in the javelin at the PSAC championships and went on to finish 14th in the NCAA Division II championships.

Last year, Hartman again finished fifth at the PSACs and earned second team All-America with an 11th-place finish at nationals in Bradenton, Florida, with a throw of 151 feet.

This spring could really be a breakout time for Hartman. She finished first in the first two meets of the outdoor season and had a personal best 156-foot, 2-inch effort at the Millersville Metrics on April 1. That stands at the top of the PSAC performance list. And Hartman is currently third on the NCAA Division II performance list.

Telling tales

If Dunkel had a problem with Hartman early on, it was for a very simple reason.

“Crystal is a natural thrower, which is very hard to coach,” he said.

But, according to Hartman, she wasn’t “a natural thrower” as a young athlete.

“This is one of my favorite stories,” she said. “Freshman year of high school I was in the weight room lifting for softball when the track and field coach happened to notice one of my lifts. He came over and told me that I should go out for track.

“I said, ‘Me, ha … I don’t run.’ And he explained that I could throw things and that caught my attention.”

Hartman believes playing the outfield in softball helped her in track, especially the javelin.

“I already had the ability to throw that far,” she said. “Javelin just became my favorite.”

Busy at college

If Dunkel has another obstacle to overcome with Hartman, it’s to get enough time in practice to work with her.

“Like most college athletes, balancing the requirements of being an active and engaged student is a challenge given the long and intense season,” the coach said. “We have been focusing on maximizing the amount of time we have with Crystal during practice.

“It takes time and effort to make the gains necessary to be one of the best in the nation.”

But it seems to be working.

“Crystal has improved her athleticism, strength levels and commitment to perfecting her technique since she’s been here,” Dunkel said. “We are seeing the biggest improvement this year. She has become more comfortable and consistent with the small changes we have made to her technique and it’s paying off.”

The two biggest dates on Hartman’s calendar are May 4-6 (PSAC outdoor championships in Bloomsburg) and May 25-27 (NCAA Division II outdoor championship in Bradenton).

“I believe it’s every track athlete’s goal to perform well at major meets,” she said. “My ultimate goal though is to just do my best. The javelin competition has been incredible at Nationals over the past two years and I was so honored to be among those talented individuals, let alone compete with them.

“I’d like to claim an All-American status at the end of this season, but, like I said, if I perform at my best I’ll be happy with that as well.”