March 10, 2009

By Greg Johnson 
The NCAA News

Dribble. Dribble. Dribble. Jump. Swish.

That’s the routine Jamey Gelhar of St. Martin’s used to make an NCAA women’s basketball-record 78 straight free throws.

Gelhar’s streak, which began December 18 when she made her last six of seven attempts at Hawaii-Hilo, ended on her first attempt in the team’s final game March 7.

The 5-6 junior point guard is 94-for-97 from the line this season, which is a remarkable 96.9 percent – another women’s NCAA record for all divisions. The previous best was 96.4 percent by Penn State’s Adrienne Squire during the 2005-06 season.

“It is definitely special to me and proves that hard work pays off,” Gelhar said. “It is really cool.”

The men’s all-divisions record for free-throw percentage in a season was set by Paul Cluxton of Northern Kentucky who made all 94 of his free-throw attempts during the 1996-97 season.

The previous women’s all-divisions record was 69 by Concordia-Moorhead’s Jamie Visness from January 28, 2002, to February 12, 2003.

Gelhar, who hails from Vancouver, Washington, which is two hours south of her campus in Lacey, was made of aware of the record as she approached it.

“The streak was in the back of my mind, but I tried not to think about it,” Gelhar said. “The way I shoot the best from the line is not to think about anything.”

Gelhar stays with her routine of three dribbles and then she takes a jump shot on her free-throw attempts.

“A lot of people don’t jump, so what I do is unconventional,” said Gelhar, who has made 282 of the 305 attempts (92.5 percent) in her career. “I stand a half a foot behind the line, and I try not to get any anxiety over it. I take a breath and make it as much of a normal shot as I can.”

During her youth basketball days, Gelhar always jumped on her free-throw shots to make sure the ball reached the basket. When she entered high school, she changed her form, but it wasn’t a successful adjustment.

“That’s when girls try to start not jumping on free throws,” Gelhar said. “I tried that, and it didn’t work for me. I am small and need to jump. It just works for me.”

The Saints spend ample time practicing free throws as a team, and Gelhar always puts extra work in on her own.

Since she is playing close to home, her parents, Brendt and Shellie, and her grandmother were able to see much of the record-breaking streak. That is a special part of this for Gelhar.

“They have rebounded a few shots for me through the years,” said Gelhar, who is majoring in accounting.

When the Saints, who finished 16-12 overall and 7-9 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, are trying to milk the clock and the other team has to foul, the ball is in Gelhar’s hands.

“Free throws are definitely my forte,” Gelhar said.

While this year’s streak is over, another one has begun. Gelhar followed her miss at the stripe in the 2008-09 finale with a make – she’s got one in a row heading into next year.