Former Olympian teaming up with South Salem HS javelin thrower - KPTV - FOX 12

Former Olympian teaming up with South Salem HS javelin thrower

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Kaia Alexander (KPTV) Kaia Alexander (KPTV)
Coach Dave Johnson (KPTV) Coach Dave Johnson (KPTV)

Back in the days of “Bo knows” and “Be like Mike,” there was also “Dan and Dave.” FOX 12 hit the track to see the relationship between a former, and potentially future, Olympian from Salem.

Where were you in 1992? For every single athlete at South Salem High School, they have to Google the accolades and achievements of track and field throws coach Dave Johnson.

The bronze medalist from the Barcelona Olympics is passing his knowledge to a young national champion javelin thrower for the Saxons. 

South Salem High junior Kaia Alexander, 17, is a longtime volleyball lover who just has the knack for heaving the jav. 

“She has a body that just matches the javelin,” said Johnson. “It’s one of those things where volleyball teaches you to snap into the ball and there is always a spike kind of focus so she has that and I just kind of turned over her brain on how that's going to work in the javelin and the rest is history.”

Alexander is a Junior Olympics national champion who placed second at the 6A state meet last spring as a sophomore. 

“She is one of those kids that we are going to talk about again,” said Johnson. 

People are still talking about Alexander’s coach some 26 years after winning a decathlon bronze medal in Barcelona.

“It’s weird to think about that he's that big but I see it in practice. He's like, yeah do this. He throws it like 150 (feet) still and I'm like cool, that's cool,” she said. 

That's Johnson, the Saxons' fourth year throws coach. 

“It’s what I did it for,” Johnson said. “As you are competing, as you are at the OIympics, and breaking world records, I got to break Jenner's American record. Different first name now. I get to see my outcomes as an athlete and now I get to put them into these kids’ lives. I get to talk to their parents that might remember the Dan and Dave thing. Usually it's the parents that will tell them, do you know who this guy is?” 

Life is short, play hard. 

“I tell them to look online at the television commercials,” Johnson said. “They don't believe me at first, so go look it up, we have YouTube to help me out.”

Pump it up and air it out. 

“Those were fun days,” Johnson said. “Reebok really did try to put some focus on track and field and push the Dan and Dave through and kind of make us compete against, back then it was Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson, who we were after. If Dan would have made the team, it would have made it a bit better.” 

Now Johnson is making Alexander better. 

“Dave and I have such a personal connection. He checks up on me in life, in track, he understands what I need in an athlete and a person. He's the best coach I could have,” Alexander said. 

Alexander’s non-throwing hand has a reminder of her late grandfather. She wears the wedding band of Mike McLaren, a pillar in the Salem Chamber of Commerce who passed away five years ago. 

“He never actually got to come to one of my track meets. He never got a chance to see me and I would just like to think that he's proud of me,” she said. 

Johnson, a Crescent Valley graduate who moved to Corvallis at 17, was also a former athletic director at South and Corban University. He knew McLaren before ever meeting Alexander.

“Keep an eye on Kaia. She is going to do some real good things for the state of Oregon,” Johnson said. 

Happy belated to Coach Dave – the married father of four, who has a freshman son at South Salem, just turned 55 on Saturday.

ESPN recently did a podcast on the Dan and Dave ride, and a “30 for 30” documentary might be in the works. 

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