NASHVILLE — In short, it was dumb, but disaster was averted.
One of the girls who was volunteering to mark the discus at the Brown County Talon Relays on Saturday was sitting in the grass with her eyes focused on the dandelions during a warm-up period.
One of the throwers had an impressive practice toss, a little off the course to the right, and tracking its way toward the volunteer’s head.
Everyone in attendance blurted out a horrified “look out,” in unison as two pounds and three ounces of space-ship steel whizzed past the girl’s head and crash landed into the turf.
Whew! That was close.
The volunteer was told to wake up, and warm-ups continued.
Columbus North’s Tessa Krempel stepped into the discus ring, and she wasn’t going to take any chances. She could see that three volunteers were standing right down the middle, or directly in her flight path.
While most of the throwers couldn’t reach the area where the volunteers were standing, about 80 feet from the ring, this was, after all, Tessa Krempel.
She yelled a “heads-up” before unleashing a practice toss which soared over the volunteers’ heads and landed another 30 feet beyond them.
Off to the side, Martha Krempel watched the action and admitted that she was once the silly onlooker who paid the price for standing too close.
That painful moment came five years ago when her daughters, the aforementioned Tessa and her twin sister Mara, were eighth-graders at Northside.
Mara launched a discus during a practice session that had its tractor beam locked on mom’s shin. “I should have stepped to the side like you are taught,” said Martha Krempel, who saw it coming the whole way. “But I hopped instead.”
The discus hit the ground and did a one-hop into her shin. A golf-ball-sized knot formed immediately, and the bruising covered her lower leg to her foot. It took six months of healing and some rehab to get over it.
After a decade of watching her son, Matt Krempel, and then Mara and Tessa, throw the shot and discus, that was the only track and field purple heart that Martha Krempel earned.
She laughs about it now because she knows she should have known better. After all, her husband, Lou Krempel, coaches North’s throwers along with his three children. Lou Krempel was a track athlete at Davidson as well, so Martha Krempel knows well what can happen when a shot or discus goes off course.
Fortunately for Mom and Pop Krempel, their kids are right on course. Matt just graduated from Northern Illinois, where he was an offensive lineman who helped the Huskies to a BCS berth his junior year. He is headed to the University of Indianapolis to continue his post-graduate education. Matt was a top thrower at North.
Tessa and Mara, who are seniors, have secured track scholarships to Western Kentucky, and they continue to excel at the high school level. On Saturday, Tessa and Mara set the meet record in the shot (the event combines two athletes’ top efforts) at 74 feet, 7 inches and posted a new meet mark in the discus at 243-7.
It was a season ago when the Krempel girls appeared to be headed for big finishes in the sectional and regional meets, but fell short.
Martha Krempel said her girls were seriously bummed.
“But we have a very positive household,” she said. “You have to get back on that horse.”
Lou Krempel always has had that horse saddled and ready to go, even when the girls didn’t want to ride.
“The girls would be going to bed, and Lou would say, ‘Come here and look at this,’” Martha Krempel said.
It would be some sort of technique to make their throwing skills that much better.
If Lou’s coaching skills sometimes ruffled a few feathers in his household, they were well-appreciated in the long run.
The girls each wrote a Father’s Day note to their dad last year, describing how much his time, effort and love meant to them. Martha said her husband always will cherish those letters as the best gift he has received.
It all adds up to happy days for Martha, who can’t believe a decade of high school throwing almost is over.
She will continue to see her girls compete in college but will miss seeing all the other athletes at North who have become part of her extended family.
So she will enjoy every minute of this season, even if she is watching from a safe distance.
Jay Heater is the Republic sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 379-5632.