Homer senior Karen Parkinson has learned that certain things -- like the science of throwing the discus or the art of making friends -- are the same no matter where one lives.
Parkinson, the defending state champion in the discus, has lived in Alaska twice, Texas twice, Colorado and Washington State. She moved to Homer in November 1998 from Texas.
"We travel a lot," said Karen's mom, Jane Parkinson. "Every five or so years, we take out a map and pick out a place we want to go."
Unlike most traveling families, which roam from place to place based on career or military obligations, the Parkinsons move simply because they want to.
Jane said her career as a nurse allows her to find employment pretty much anywhere she chooses, although she added that it's not as easy as it used to be.
"My dad would always say, 'You need to buy a house for those kids,'" said Jane, who also has a son, Steve, who is now in college. "A home is more important, and we can make a home wherever we go."
Both Karen and her mother said leaving friends behind can be tough. But they did point out there is a flip side to that.
"I have a lot of friends all over the country," Karen said. "It would not have been possible to know all those people if I had stayed in one place."
It is precisely that attitude that brought the Parkinsons to Homer.
The family lived in Anchorage from 1992 to 1994 and at that time recognized Homer as an ideal place to live.
"A job came open, so we ran for it," Jane said.
It wasn't quite that easy. Jane was worried Karen wouldn't want to leave Texas right in the middle of high school, but a talk with Karen revealed those worries were unfounded.
"It was really hard to leave," Karen said. "I was a junior and I had been with my group of friends for four years. That's the longest I had ever been with a group of friends.
"It was hard to move, but I'm really glad I came here."
Naturally, when Parkinson arrived in Homer during her junior year it didn't take her long to adjust to a new place. After all, she was an old hand at that.
She joined the basketball team in the winter, where she saw action on varsity and junior varsity, then joined the track team in the spring.
Troy Minogue, Parkinson's throwing coach, was pleased to see he suddenly had a refined thrower on his hands. Parkinson had been throwing the discus since seventh grade.
"She was very good with technique," Minogue said. "She had the basics down already."
Parkinson spent her junior year firmly entrenched behind Palmer's Brandi Richards and Colony's Jinette DeBuck in the discus.
However, when state came around something happened that only goes to show that grandpa knows best.
"(My grandpa) thinks I'm the best," Parkinson said. "He saw me throw in Texas.
"He was talking on the phone with me and he told me I had to win state. I told him I'd try."
Parkinson responded by uncorking a school-record throw of 129 feet, 1 inch, to take state. Richards had thrown over 140 feet during the year and DeBuck had been over 130 feet, but neither could produce those marks at state.
"I was the underdog," Parkinson said. "Everybody expected Brandy to win, especially because she was at home.
"They both must have gotten nervous at the meet. I wasn't nervous. I was just having fun."
The same can't be said for some of the nurses at South Peninsula Hospital, where Jane works. Jane couldn't get off for state, so Karen dialed her up on the cell phone as her name was being announced as the state champion.
"There was so much noise and screaming that when the nurses answered, they thought I was hurt or that something really bad had happened," Karen said.
More of the same may be in store for the Parkinsons this year. Karen's best mark this season is 123-7, which was more than 10 feet better than any mark in the state heading into last weekend.
Parkinson would like to throw better than 130 feet this year.
"I know I can do it," she said. "At the Homer Invite, I threw 131 but I scratched because my foot was just outside of the ring."
When not doing athletics, Parkinson is heavily involved with the youth group at Homer Christian. She also gets solid grades in the classroom.
"She's a really good student," said Minogue, who taught Parkinson pre-calculus. "She also isn't afraid of taking the really hard classes."
Next year, Parkinson would like to attend Puget Sound Christian College in Edwards, Wash. Meanwhile, Parkinson's mother plans on eventually retiring in Homer.
"We're working on letting go," Karen said. "It's kind of hard to accept. The baby is growing up and leaving the house."
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