PADECKY: Friendship forged through love of discus

By BOB PADECKY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Kathleen Durand and Nolan Nagle know each other so well, that every tick and twitch, every vulnerable spot, it’s all fair game. Words are like ping pong balls for them, batted around sometimes in jest, sometimes with great force, sometimes with great sting. When that sting, that aggression, is present, they turn into what Kathleen’s mom calls, “The Bickersons.” Yes, Durand and Nagle act like an old married couple.

Except they are neither old — Durand is 17, Nagle is 18 — nor married. They not only break the mold, it would be an insult to say they could ever fit into one. What the pairthey did Thursdaylast week at the Retreat Center at Cardinal Newman High School, we have not seen the likes of it before around here and it’s almost certain we’ll never see the likes of it again.

When was the last time in Sonoma County two athletes from different high schools sat down at the same table together to sign their collegiate national- letters of intent?

When, on one of the most important days of their young lives, did you see a Newman boy (Nagle) hug a Carrillo girl (Durand) for the cameras and no one thought it was weird?

Heck, I can’t ever remember the last time I asked, “So, really, you guys aren’t boyfriend and girlfriend?”

“We get that a lot,” Durand said.

Durand and Nagle are the best of friends, not the most common of relationships in high school between an adolescent male and female. It wasn’t like they became buds because they shared the same love of music or calculus or the 49ers or even something as trivial as the love of chocolate. No, the bond they developed four years ago is the same bond that brought them together Thursdaylast week, a bond as rare as a close boy-girl high school friendship.

They both love the discus. Both will go to college because of it. Durand is going to Sacramento State, Nagle to the University of Montana. Their paths will cross again, as both colleges are members of the Big Sky Conference. However their paths cross, rest assured it won’t be a conventional journey. It won’t follow a routine. Consider the following statement as an example.

“I wouldn’t be going to Montana if it wasn’t for Kathleen,” Nagle said. “She knows more about throwing (the discus) than anyone I’ll know.”

Beaming, Durand extended her hand in a fist bump and Nagle reached out with his closed fist, only to open his fist at the last second and do a wave move under her hand, annoying her of course. Yes, they enjoy the bounce-back they give each other and Durand, all 5-feet-5 of her, has no problem showing her spine when called upon.

“We get people telling us we aren’t track athletes because we don’t run,” Durand said.

“And I am lazy,” Nagle said.

“But,” Durand continued, “I tell them I’m a school record holder (135 feet, 7 inches) and when they get to be a school record holder, they can come back and talk to me.”

Truth to tell, Durand has put a lot of sweat equity into the discus. She’s been to Statethe state meet her first three years at Carrillo, will likely go again and proudly carries the banner of the Discus Durands.

Her mom, Alicia, is the school recorder for Rancho Cotate and was the NBL discus champ in 1990 and 1991. Aunt Christa is the school record holder for Ursuline and NBL champion in 2003. Uncle Ross was the NBL discus champ in 1988. Joel, her dad, was the conference discus champ when he threw for SRJC in 1993. Aunt Joy went to St. Mary’s on a basketball scholarship and has the fourth-best discus mark in Ursuline history. Brothers Christopher and Jonathan throw the discus.

Discus throwers typically are long and strong. At 5-foot-5 Durand flies under the radar. Alicia has a picture of Kathleen last year at State when she was tucked under the arm of a 6-foot-4 competitor. “She looks like a little girl in comparison,” Alicia said. No worries. Durand likes to surprise, whether she’s throwing the discus or not.

“Can I tell him about Suzy Powell?” Durand said.

Nagle might have blushed a little bit before he nodded. Last summer at a discus camp at Sacramento State, Nagle was smitten with one of the discus instructors, three-time U.S. Olympian Suzy Powell. Durand was telling the story of how Nagle grew wide-eyed in Powell’s presence but quickly came to Nagle’s defense when I said Powell was 20 years older.

“Age is just a number,” Durand said.

The banter that was slung back-and- and forth between them created the impression they enjoyed stinging each other more than praising the other. An example: “Did you really place Carrillo’s balloons higher than Newman’s at the table?” Nagle asked.

But then I crossed the line and Nagle noticed.

The conversation had drifted to Durand not being a physical giant in the sport. To frame her size disadvantage, I asked her for her weight, usually not the smartest question to ask a womenwoman. Durand said only her family knows. She doesn’t reveal it. “I want to be more fit,” she said. I said I thought she looked fit.

Nagle stepped in.

“Time to move on,” he said.

That’s when I got it. Nagle and Durand were more like a brother and a sister. They could talk trash to each other, take that verbal needle and poke and poke and poke. That’s for us to do, bub, not anyone else. He was protecting her. She didn’t protest. Being “The Bickersons”,,” well, that was just their cover.

You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.

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