Suzy Powell-Roos of Modesto always dismissed her event, the discus, as “kind of silly.”
“Silly,” as in the relative obscurity of tossing a platter as far as possible and dedicating a large portion of one’s life – day by day and piece by piece – to connecting all the physical dots while spinning in a tiny circle.
From age 12, Powell-Roos dedicated herself toward that endeavor. The results were three appearances at the Olympics, USA championships, national records and the kind of acclaim reserved for only a special few.
It can’t be silly any longer for Powell-Roos, 20 years to the month after her graduation from Downey High. She was inducted to the National High School Hall of Fame on Wednesday night alongside former NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball stars, accomplished coaches and even a debate and speech instructor.
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“It’s a culmination of certainly my high school career, but in a lot of ways, also my entire career,” Powell-Roos said. “It’s nice to revisit those memories at Downey.”
More than 900 packed a hotel banquet hall in downtown Boston to recognize the Modestan and 11 other inductees – Powell-Roos was the youngest – as the 95th summer meeting of the National Federation of State High School Associations adjourned with its big finish.
Powell-Roos, 37, became the first Stanislaus District athlete, and only the fifth from the Sac-Joaquin Section, to be so honored. Pete Saco, the outgoing section commissioner, and section media spokesman Will DeBoard also attended.
Only 423 have gained entry to the Hall of Fame since the beginning of the program in 1982. Joining Powell-Roos this year were two-time World Series champion Mike Devereaux, former NFL All-Pro tight end Ozzie Newsome and former NBA star and Olympic champion Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway.
“It’s an honor to be included in such a national caliber of company,” Powell-Roos said.
Also there were Tim Roos, Powell-Roos’ husband of nearly 10 years, and her father, Mac Powell.
Powell, her first coach, looked back with fondness at the accomplishments of the youngest of his six children.
“We never thought it would end up with this kind of celebration,” he said. “It was quite a remarkable thing in retrospect.”
The father also was motivated about wanting his daughter to enjoy the same opportunities in sports as the boys. That’s why Powell-Roos became one of the most gifted children under Title IX, the landmark legislation which mandated gender equality in athletics.
“Being here with my dad and my family it was a lot of fun to be recognized among other coaches, athletes and performers,” she said.
Powell-Roos’ Downey résumé clearly impressed the national board. She was crowned the state champion three times and set the national record in the event in 1994 (188 feet, 4 inches), a mark which stood until 2009.
She also was the U.S. Junior champion three times and, in 1995, set the American Junior Record with a throw of 190-6. Later, she earned All-America honors six times at UCLA.
Powell-Roos was the youngest member of the USA Track and Field Team at the 1996 Olympics at Atlanta. She also made the team in 2000 and ’08 (only an injury kept her home in ’04) and she snapped a 21-year-old American record when she threw 222 feet in ’07.
“I was lucky to have people championing my induction tonight,” Powell-Roos said.