Student Athlete Breaks Track Record in Javelin with 143-Foot Throw

Fotini Xenidis ’11 has already qualified provisionally for the NCAA Division III Championships.
Posted 04/03/08
Q: Fotini, you just broke a 23-year-old outdoor track record at Wesleyan in the javelin by more than 13 feet in your first collegiate meet. Did you have any idea what Wesleyan’s team record was before you began competing and if so, did you think you’d be able to break it so soon?

A: I knew that the record was 130 because it was in the field house and we always practiced there so I would see it every day. My best throw in high school was 139 feet 10 inches so I was expecting to break the record, but not in the first meet. I was amazed that I threw that far so early in the season.

Q: In looking at the pattern of your throws at the meet in Florida on March 21, your first two tosses were under 120 feet, then came the record-breaker at 143 feet, 4 inches, followed by a more modest 125 foot throw. Can you describe the psyche of an athlete in an event like the javelin where there can be such a variation in performance?

A: I was glad about all my throws. Hitting the 120s consistently was a great way to start off the season. During the first throw, I usually am nervous because a lot of times the first throw shows me where I stand as a thrower at that time. Plus the first throw of my first college meet was nerve-racking. Many people on the team were expecting me to deliver a great performance. The second throw is always more relaxed, but in my mind I am relieved because I know that if I don’t do well on this throw, I had two more. The third throw is always my favorite one. That’s for two reasons: reason number one being that it is my favorite number and reason two being that in almost all of my high school meets, my third throw has always been the best. Psychologically, I was expecting this throw to be the best. The fourth throw in this meet was really relaxed and since I knew that I was ahead of the competition by 5 meters, I wasn’t as psyched up to throw far as I was when I was behind. That’s how my mind works in a nutshell.

Q: You have already qualified provisionally for the NCAA Division III Championships. Based on what you’ve done so far, do you have your sights set on any particular goal this season? A NESCAC title? A New England title? An NCAA title?

A: I never think like that. I think it freaks me out to think of winning titles and it also makes me nervous for the wrong reasons. Going into meets I only make a goal of how far I want to throw. I could care less if it gets me a title or not. But hey, winning doesn’t hurt either. My ultimate goal for this season is to be able to hit 150 feet and qualify automatically for NCAA. I don’t like setting goals to win titles. In high school I won the Connecticut State Championship with a throw of 117 feet and I was extremely upset. I’m more focused on doing well with my throws than winning titles. But I guess that’s not something a coach likes to hear!

Q: You came to Wesleyan from nearby Shelton, Conn. How did you become interested in attending Wesleyan? Did your talent as a volleyball player have anything to do with enrolling at Wesleyan?

A: My old volleyball head coach, Bonnie Fineman, left my high school for an assistant coach position at Wesleyan and that was the first time I heard of the school. She was the most passionate coach I ever had and she made a big impact on me. So when it came time to look at colleges, she told me that the head coach, Gale [Lackey], and she were interested in me and that I would be able to do both volleyball and track. A year later, here I am and it’s all thanks to Bonnie Fineman.

Q: Tell us about your experience with Wesleyan’s volleyball team this past fall after starting almost every match at outside hitter and ranking second on the team in kills with 2.41 per game?

A: I came on the team not expecting to start and miraculously I did. I was happy about the playing time I received and also about how good every player was. We have some of the best players in the NESCAC. Lisa Drennan, Ellie Healy, Ruby Hernandez, Becca Rodger, and I can go on and on. I loved everything about the team. Everyone was so friendly and got along so well. This seems like a silly reason to like a team, but going through my high school volleyball season was quite different. There came a time in high school when I wanted to quit because the drama was getting in the way with the team’s performance. The girls on the [Wesleyan] team were great on and off the court. We spent every single day together and would have dinners and Sunday brunches.

Q: Tell us a bit about your home life in Shelton? What do your mother and father do for a living? Do you have any siblings and what are they up to?

A: My mother is the most hard working woman I know. Her dedication has definitely rubbed off on me. She has shown me by example to never quit even when things aren’t going your way. My parents were born and raised and Greece and moved here in search of the American dream. They own a breakfast/lunch place and work there seven days a week. They have sacrificed so much to make sure my brother and I are accommodated for. My father is extremely into sports and it definitely rubbed off on both me and my brother. We have been active ever since we could walk. I have always played a sport. My brother is a senior in high school and the most athletic kid I know. Football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, tennis, he’s done them all. Not only has he played all those sports, but he was the best one on the team for all of them. From being a middle hitter in volleyball to being a free safety and fullback in football, he has shown me what it means to be an athlete. He is my inspiration. I feel extremely happy when I make my family proud with my volleyball or track performances.

Q: Besides throwing the javelin and playing volleyball, what other types of activities attract your attention?

A: I like to read books and I love to watch my brother and boyfriend play sports. I think it makes me proud to see them do so well. My boyfriend also plays volleyball but at a Division I level and did track in high school. We’re eerily similar in sports. I also like to defend the Yankees because everyone I know is a Boston fan. Considering the number of times I’ve done it, it should be considered a hobby.

Q: What academic subjects interest you and what do you think might be your major at Wesleyan?

A: I like Classics a lot. The people of ancient times really interest me because their train of thought was so complex and they were brilliant. Imagine being the person who created geometry. Don’t get me wrong, we have brilliant people in today’s world, but back then it seemed like they had so little, but did so much. Maybe it’s my Greek pride?

Q: Is there anything else in your background we should know about?

A: I had two stress fractures on my lower fifth vertebrae my junior year. I was out for three months which was the longest time I have ever not played a sport. I was out for the first two months of track season and came back just in time for the last meet where I was able to qualify for states. I missed the national mark by 1 inch. Those three months without doing either volleyball or track made me feel useless and made me realize exactly how much I loved to throw javelin. I’ve never been in so much pain in my life either. I would walk like an 83-year-old woman and it hurt to sit, sleep, and move. I am praying the pain will never come back.

By Brian Katten ’79, sports information director