Under the tutelage of their father, siblings are developing into one of the top throwing families in Oregon

Ever since siblings Hap, Branko and Lala Frketich all won Junior Olympic javelin state titles in their first season of competition five years ago, their Croatian surname has become almost synonymous with throwing on the state’s youth track and field SETH GORDON - A throwing clan - (From left to right, top photo) Siblings Branko, Hap and Lala Frketich have made a name for themselves as a family on the youth track and field circuit over the past five years, with Hap and Lala both qualifying in the javelin for the upcoming Junior Olympic national championships in Greensboro, N.C.

And while they haven’t quite reached the level of the Crousers — perhaps Oregon’s most prolific and famous throwing family — the Frketich name could get a boost this week when Hap and Lala compete at the Junior Olympic national championships in Greensboro, N.C.

Lala, in fact, already broke Gresham High School star Haley Crouser’s age-level state record for the javelin, throwing 109 feet, 10 inches July 6 to win the Junior Olympic regional competition and qualify for nationals.

At just 12 years old, Lala has won five consecutive Junior Olympic state titles in the javelin and had been stalking Crouser’s record this year. The seventh-grade student also won the event at Track City Classic Saturday in Eugene, throwing 104-8 on her final throw to claim victory.

“Lala, I believe, is going to be an outstanding prospect,” said legendary Newberg High School javelin coach Joe Boutin, who works with Hap and Lala about once a week. “We’ve had no one in my long tenure here that has started as early as she has or anywhere close to that. I don’t know any of the girls that have been here that have even started anytime before high school. She’s exciting to watch.”

Hap, who placed fifth at regionals, has been practicing with Boutin and the high school team since he was in seventh grade and began the summer coming off a somewhat frustrating high school season. A back injury kept him out of several meets and slowed his progress, but he has come on over the summer, setting a new personal record of 152-6 to place third at the Track City Classic.

“I’m very pleased with his improvement,” Boutin said. “I always feel that a boy that throws 150 as a freshman, if he keeps it up and stays in the program, will be a very successful thrower.”

Branko has gravitated toward the discus, placing 10th in the 13/14 division at state this summer, and would like to throw the hammer some day. Unlike Hap and Lala, whose other sport is basketball, Branko also plays football and wrestles.

The family practices together four or five times each week at George Fox University’s Colcord Field, with father and former NHS thrower Len Frketich coaching, then head off to a meet just about every weekend in the summer.

“It’s really something when a parent will spend the time just about daily working out with them,” Boutin said. “He’s a real supporter of track and field, which is really needed.”

Len Frketich went out for track as a junior at Newberg and ever since winning his first meet in the javelin, began wishing he had gotten started earlier. So when he heard about an open youth meet in Hillsboro six years ago, he thought he’d let the kids give it a try.

When it came time to choose between baseball and softball or track the following spring, the siblings jumped at the chance to throw.

“In basketball season, one’s over here and another’s over there,” Len Frketich said. “Now we’re all together. We practice together. We get in the rig and go to meets together and everyone has their times and their schedule and off they go. It’s really good for young kids because it really makes them independent.”

Like all competitors 12 and younger, Lala currently competes with a turbo javelin — a shorter, 300-gram plastic version designed for youth — but is looking forward to moving exclusively to the 600-gram version she will throw for the rest of her career.

She alternates between the two at practice, and sometimes at meets, and already clears 100 feet in practice to go along with an official personal record of 94-10. She has met and talked with NHS alum and 2012 Olympian Rachel (Yurkovich) Buciarski and says she wants to “keep throwing forever.”

“The Frketich kids put in a lot of time,” Boutin said. “They go to all-comers meets whenever they can and they’ve tried to stay active. It’s paying off.”