A hall of famer yet again

Donna Mayhew has become a veteran of athletic hall of fame ceremonies.

She's attended her share of them and has been inducted into the Glendale Community College and University of Arizona athletic hall of fames. Her acceptance speeches have been different, as she often scribbles down some notes on a piece of paper expressing her thoughts on what's translated into a stellar career, capped by two appearances in the Summer Olympics.

Mayhew, a former world-class javelin thrower, will likely jot down some more notes when she is enshrined into the Crescenta Valley High Athletic Hall of Fame at 7 p.m. Saturday at Angeles National Golf Club in Sunland.

Mayhew, who excelled in the shot put and discus at Crescenta Valley before launching a respectable career in the javelin on the collegiate, national and international levels, will be inducted along with Gary Beck, John Mirch, Michele Lee Hampton, Gene Sutherland, Bob Herrold, Greg Vasquez and the 1973 football team that captured a CIF Southern Section championship.

"I never kept any of my previous acceptance speeches, so I'll just shoot from the hip," said Mayhew, a La Crescenta resident who participated in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics. "I've been trying to remember a lot of the good things that I was able to get done at CV.

"There aren't too many high school athletic hall of fames around. It's mostly college, so I was surprised when they told me I would be going in. This is quite an honor for me."

Honors are nothing new to Mayhew, who developed her track and field skills at Crescenta Valley before graduating in 1978. The idea of possibly competing in the Olympics 10 years later might have been the farthest thing from her mind. In fact, she was barely familiar with what a javelin was, or even the purpose of the event.

Mayhew mainly threw the discus at Crescenta Valley, setting a then-school record of 117 feet 5 inches at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational in 1978. However, something piqued her interest with respect to the javelin, an event that most high schools don't participate in.

"CV got me into sports and I had a lot of fun times," said the 5-foot-3 Mayhew, who won a Pacific League championship in the discus in 1978. "I did well in the discus and shot put and the coaches worked with me throughout the years, something I really appreciated.

"I started to throw the javelin on the side at school at Crescenta Valley Park with assistant coach Edith Mendyka, and she taught me so much about all the things needed to be successful with it. It was something I just wanted to keep working at and just go from there."

Keith Gilliland, who coached Crescenta Valley's track and field program from 1965-98, said Mayhew provided the Falcons with a steady presence in the shot and discus rings.

"She worked very hard at CV," Gilliland said. "For her size, she was extremely dynamic.

"No way on this earth did I think she would someday be taking part in the Olympics. She didn't have the size, but she sure did have plenty of heart."

Mayhew spent a great deal of time perfecting throwing the javelin, similar, she said, to tossing a football. She worked on building her arm and lower body strength, in addition to her speed.

Things just came together when she enrolled at Glendale college, where she became a force in the Western State Conference. Mayhew worked with various Vaqueros coaches, including Coach John Tansley and Dianne Spangler. Tansley was an All-American in the event in 1958 at Long Beach State and coached cross-country and track and field at Glendale college from 1967-81.

Just like that, Mayhew had the ideal tutor who could possibly take her to new heights.

"I was really excited that they were going to work with me," Mayhew, 50, said. "They showed me how to succeed and I got a lot of great training from them."

She won Western State Conference championships in 1979 and 1980 in the javelin. She then had a then-state record throw of 167-6 to win the state championship in Bakersfield in 1980.

"When you think of the javelin, you think of somebody who is 6-5 with large arms," Tansley said in a phone interview from his home in Sun City, Ariz. "Here's Donna at 5-2 with shorter arms than most and I just couldn't see the talent.

"She developed a cannon arm and we worked on technique with things like arm stride, leg strength and hip movement. I continued to be amazed that she could pick up these things just like that."

Mayhew, who was inducted into GCC's athletic hall of fame in 2002, didn't stop there.

She transferred from Glendale college to the University of Arizona, where she achieved All-American status. She placed third with a toss of 171-5 in the NCAA Nationals and was named an All-American in 1983 before being inducted into the university's athletic hall of fame in 1989.

Mayhew was also a seven-time national champion between 1986-95 despite having undergone surgery to remove bone chips in her elbow. She was also an Olympic Festival champion four times and a United States Olympic Trials champion twice.

With the dream of earning a spot in the Olympics nearly coming to fruition, Mayhew never stopped believing in herself. In 1986, she captured her inaugural U.S. National Track and Field Championship and placed sixth at the Goodwill Games in Moscow.

In early 1988 in Indianapolis, Mayhew enjoyed one of the finest moment of her career. She captured the U.S. Olympic Trials with a mark of 208-10, then the third-longest mark in United States history.

"That mark got me into the Olympics and it's something I'll always be proud of," Mayhew said. "I was finally going to the Olympics."

Mayhew competed in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. She finished seventh with a 202-8 effort.

While Mayhew said she planned on winning a medal, the experience competing on the grandest stage in the world left her amazed.

"I went up against a lot of people that I competed against in Moscow in 1986," Mayhew said. "I remember going out there to throw.

"There was a calm in the center of the competition, but commotion on the outside with the crowd. I went there to compete, but it was kind of like being in a bubble. You want to be able to absorb all of the ambiance, being in the huge Olympic Village."

Mayhew was once again in the Olympics, this time in 1992 in Barcelona, Spain after once again capturing the U.S. trials (189-1). She made the final in Barcelona, throwing 182-8 for 12th place after a 200-11 mark in the qualifying round.

"It was an awesome experience just to get back to the Olympics and represent my country," said Mayhew, who works for the City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Dept. "It was a great country to visit and the opening ceremonies were great.

"I don't have any regrets."

Saturday will no doubt be another proud moment for Mayhew.

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