Author: Jeremy Childs
Eagle Rock’s own Kimberly Orpinela (senior) has a knack for throwing hammers that even Thor would envy. She is one of Occidental’s all-time best female throwers and her personal best hammer throw of 146′ 1″ feet, posted at the SCIAC Multi-Dual #1 meet earlier this season, shattered records, moving her to third place on the school’s record board.
“I never thought I’d get on the record board here—especially for hammer throw, which was something I didn’t even really think about before I got here,” Orpinela said.
Orpinela got her start in track during her first year at Eagle Rock High School. She began by taking part in the sprinting events but found her true place in hurdling, which became her main event for the rest of her high school career. After earning the title of MVP on her varsity team during her junior and senior years, she was encouraged by her coach to continue with her track career in college.
Issues with a pinched nerve in her back, a condition known as sciatica, forced an end to her career on the track; however, she found a second home in the throwing events: shot put, discus, javelin and hammer throw, her specialty.
“I always thought I would want to do [hammer throw] but I didn’t think I’d get anywhere with it, so to be top three is a pretty amazing feat,” Orpinela said.
Orpinela attributes part of her success to the guidance of Assistant Coach Ricky Lang, a specialist in strength and conditioning, who joined the Occidental staff this year as a football strength and conditioning coach.
“I noticed that I’ve been lifting a lot heavier. [Lang instituted] a change of actually documenting everything and he added a strict lifting program,” Orpinela said. “It made me feel better because I could actually see my progress and see where I was and how I was improving.”
For the remainder of her final season as a varsity athlete, Orpinela hopes to continue her climb up the all-time list.
“The next [record] is 15 feet away. I don’t know if I can actually reach that, but I’m not pessimistic about it,” Orpinela said. “I’m more preoccupied with beating myself and improving as much as I can.”
When she is not on the field practicing her technique or in the weight room doing strength training, Orpinela keeps herself busy with an assortment of jobs in the community. She works as an assistant preschool teacher at the on-campus Child Development Center and babysits several of her pupils. She also works as a campus aide at Eagle Rock High School, while unofficially tutoring students around campus and giving classroom talks about her college experience. She has held both of these positions since her first year at Occidental.
“A lot of teachers would pull me into the classrooms and they would tell the students, ‘this is Kimberly, she goes to Oxy and she works here,'” Orpinela said about her time working at Eagle Rock High School. “So I give a lot of college speeches to a lot of different classes and try to explain to the students how important it is to do well in class. And I feel like I did get through to some people.”
While Orpinela attends college in her hometown and spends a significant amount of time each week at her high school, she feels that she has been able to enjoy the same benefits a student gets when going to college away from home. She said that the opportunity to go to a prestigious college, while still being close enough to help out with her family at home, is very important to her.
“Coming to Oxy I knew I was going to get a different experience,” Orpinela said. “I felt like I was getting the best of both worlds, I was getting away from home, but still at home.”
With work hours that sometimes hit twenty hours a week—as well as being a full-time student and a track athlete—Orpinela has had to find a balance with the activities in her life.
“The spring semesters were always the hardest because I refused to decrease my work load,” Orpinela said.
After graduation, Orpinela hopes to use her degree in psychology to secure a job working with children, specifically those with physical disabilities.
“I want to work with [kids] in a more physical way,” Orpinela. “I would rather work with kids with disabilities, more geared to physical therapy or occupational therapy.”
Orpinela hopes that her future will take her not just beyond Northeast Los Angeles, but to a completely new state. And while a move to a new state will be a major change for a person who has spent her entire life in Eagle Rock, Orpinela is more than ready for this next step.
“I didn’t expect to ever get to this place where I would feel comfortable leaving, because I’ve always kind of felt like I had to stay,” Orpinela said. “Now, not only do I feel like I can go, I feel like I’m becoming ready to go. I feel like I’m getting pushed out, and it’s a nice feeling to have.”
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