American JavFest Preview: Furey, Ince, Biddle, Rivera lead elite fields

by Steve Underwood

The American JavFest, ready to launch with its first edition this weekend in East Stroudsburg, Pa., is more than just a new event hosted by the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation.

  • It’s the rebooting of an event NSAF Project Javelin coach Jeff Gorski began and hosted years ago.
  • It’s an attempt to create a stateside version of javelin’s most wondrous festival in Finland.
  • And it’s the realization of a dream first imagined by the NSAF last fall, then nurtured into reality with coaches Gorski, Barry Krammes, Tom Pukstys and others.

But most of all, it’s a chance for the most devoted of devotees of the discipline – those who eat, sleep and breath javelin, and throw it the furthest – to get together to learn, socialize and compete.  And there’s some folks here who can throw the javelin pretty dang far!

There have been around 50 registrants for this weekend – which includes clinics and other fun stuff besides the competitions. 

More JavFest Info:  Home Page | Intro/Origin Story (April ’15) | Performance Lists | Weekend Schedule

The fields are particularly strong for the Boys and Girls High School Elite divisions, as well as the Men’s College/Open Elite division.  Four of the top 8 prep boys are here, including NBNO champ Michael Biddle, plus Team USA’s World Youth standout Liam Christensen.  Meanwhile, three of the top 4 (and 4 of the top 10) girls’ are here – namely the Project Javelin quartet led by NBNO champ and World Youth finalist Sophia Rivera.  As for the Men’s College/Open Elite, the top 3 on the U.S. list, including USATF champ Sean Furey, will do battle – plus USATF Junior champ Curtis Thompson.  The eWomen's College/Open Elite field isn't as deep, but includes rising star Ariana Ince.

A detailed breakdown by division, with some brief bios:

HIGH SCHOOL BOYS ELITE – PA stars do battle again … but Liam lurks

You could say this is actually the “rubber match” between Pennsylvania’s Michaels” – NBNO champ and US#2 Michael Biddle (Williamsburg, PA sr) and US#3 Chicagoland champ Michael Marsack, who have taken turns beating each other in those two big meets.  But you now have to seriously consider the newest NSAF Project Javelin member, Liam Christensen, who was 5th at NBNO at 192-1 – but then hit monster PRs of 224-4 and 238-2 in the World Youth Trials and World Youth Champs – certainly suggesting well over 200 feet with the HS jav.

HSB Profiles

  • Michael Biddle – US#2 213-10 PR – Williamsburg, PA senior:  NBNO title with 212-2 is his huge 2015 highlight … won PA Class AA title with 199-6 … had 6 other meets beyond 200’, including his PR 213-10 at Bellwood-Antis Invite … only losses were to Denzel Pratt of The Bahamas at Penn Relays and at Chicagoland to Marsack … improved from 196-4 as a junior.
  • Michael Marsack – US#3 210-10 PR – Stroudsburg, PA junior: After a bad PA Class AAA state meet, has had 2 great post-season meets … was 2nd at NBNO with 200-11, then just a foot off his PR … then beat NBNO champ Biddle with a his big PR 210-10 at Chicagoland … has 4 career meets over 200’ … improved PR from 184-6 as a soph.
  • Ryan Gebhardt – US#6 206-6 PR – Wallkill Valley, NJ senior:  Broke his previous PR by 17 feet when he won NJ Meet of Champs with his 206-6 … has since passed up the post-season – until now … went unbeaten after April as he made huge jumps from 169 feet to 173 to 181 to 189 and then 206-6 … PR in 2014 was 166-8.
  • John Putnam – 186-5 (’15)/US#14 206-0 PR (’14) – Massapequa, NY senior:  Had big breakthrough 206-0 for 4th at ’14 NBNO … followed with two meets over 193’ the next month … 2015 has been a struggle, with just a 186-5 best … has improved in the hammer, winning the Emerging Elite division at NBNO at 190-5 … also threw 66-8 with weight indoors (15th NBNI).
  • Liam Christensen – 192-1 (HS 800g) / US#1 238-2 (Youth 700g) PRs – Academic Magnet, SC soph – His big summer in jav got rolling at NBNO, where the relatively unknown thrower was 5th with 192-0 … at World Youth Trials, he launched a big PR 224-4 (700g) with his last throw to qualify and clinch the win … stunned in the World Youth Champs qualifying with another huge PR, this time 238-2 – though in 14th he missed the final (unheard-of 12 auto qualifiers) … first impressed last summer with 189-8 (HS jav) to win USATF JOs (15-16).
  • Derek Ziegenfuss – US#8 204-2 PR – Parkland, PA senior:  Trying to find more consistency … hit his 204-2 PR in a dual meet … 6th at Penn Relays with 188-1 … also over 200 with 201-9 for 3rd in loaded Class AAA District 11 meet … just 13th at state, however … this is his 1st post-season meet this year … improved from 182-7 PR as a junior.
  • Grayson Hill – 200-3 PR – Cathedral Prep, PA junior:  Project Javelin thrower bounced back from string of “off meets” with to grab 4th at NBNO with 193-6 … started off 2015 in great form with trio of PRs including first 200-footer (200-3) in mid-April … then had several meets between 178-186 (including 5th at AAA state) … took 3rd in World Youth Trials and 4th at Chicagoland.
  • Grant Jones – 199-11 PR – LaSalle College, PA senior:  Consistent in 180s throughout 2015, then broke through with 199-11 PR to win AAA state … followed up nicely with 195-11 at NBNO for 3rd … also was 7th at Penn Relays and most recently 3rd at Chicagoland with 197-9 … came into the year with 187-9 PR.
  • Andrew Manz – 194-11 PR – North Allegheny, PA junior:  Broke his year-old PR in early May with 193-4 at WPIAL meet … went on for 2nd in Class AAA District 7, then 3rd at AAA state (188-7) … followed that with 10th at NBNO at 187-7 … threw 188-9 for a PR as a soph the previous year.
  • Mark Orlando – 194-5 PR – Marlboro, NJ senior:  Claims 194-5 PR, though online stats show a 2014 best of 180-7 and 2015 best of 173-10.

HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS ELITE – Project girls meet for final time in ’15

Each of the Project Javelin “big 4” girls have had their time to shine during the past two years.  In ’15, it has been mostly Sophia Rivera at the top with her 175-10 PR and NBNO and World Youth Trials titles.  But Katelyn Gochenour has had her share of wins, including CSI last month and Vaasa last year, among others.  Tairyn Montgomery dominated last summer and could explode over 170 at any time.  And Emma Fitzgerald, the 2014 Youth Olympic Trials champ, showed a return to form at USATF Juniors, taking 3rd over her 3 teammates.  Who will shine brightest this weekend?

HSG Profiles

  • Sophia Rivera – US#2 175-10 PR – Brentwood, MO junior – Project Javelin thrower’s then-US#1 175-10 PR came in a small home invite in late April, sandwiched between two thrilling, major wins at Kansas Relays (162-9) and Penn Relays (169-6) … hasn’t thrown as far with HS jav since, but still won Great SW at 152-1 and NBNO at 157-2 … later won World Youth Trials (500g Youth Jav) at 169-3, then took 8th at World Youth Final at 166-10 (while simultaneously competing in shot put) … has been even more successful in shot put, with NBN indoor/outdoor double, Youth Trials and CSI wins, and winning silver in World Youth shot … also has 154-9 discus PR and can lay claim as greatest all-around prep thrower ever … came to Project in Dec. 2013 with 117-foot PR and improved to 157-1 by season’s end in ’14 (5th USATF Juniors).
  • Katelyn Gochenour – US#3 167-2 PR (HS 600g jav) / US#2 167-6 (Youth 500g jav) – Marian Catholic, IA junior – Project Javelin thrower coming off 11th-place finish at World Youth Championships after qualifying 8th into the final … threw PR 167-6 for 500g Youth jav at Youth Trials for 2nd … 2015 season also included Cuba/CSI victory, 2nd at Great SW, 4th at NBNO and 9th at USA Juniors … great start in March/April included 4 meets between 157-167 with 167-2 PR … came to Project in 2012 and in ’13 was MVP for age-group wins at Pihtipudas, Finland … 2014 included 167-0 PR, NBNO and GSW runner-up finishes and Vaasa, Finland victory.
  • Tairyn Montgomery – US#4 164-4 PR – Redondo Beach, CA junior – Project Javelin thrower  comes to the JavFest off injury recovery and hoping to make a step toward dominant summer 2014 form … a year ago, she scored a trio of major wins that included NBNO (157-9), Chicagoland (163-0) and a defense of her 2013 USATF JO (15-16) title at US#1 168-3 … started 2015 strong with 157p-2 at Arcadia Multis and then 164-4 at Mt. SAC, but hasn’t been able to hit 160s since, taking 2nd at NBNO (156-8), 5th at USATF Juniors (153-6) and 3rd at Youth Trials (162-0 with 500g Youth jav).
  • Emma Fitzgerald – US#9 159-5 PR – Thayer Academy, MA junior – Project Javelin thrower opes here to build on success at USATF Juniors a month ago, when she scored an outstanding 3rd at 157-0 … not quite as successful at meets preceding (5th at NBNO, 143-4) or following (2nd at Chicagoland, 148-4) … broke PR earlier in the spring in Massachusetts at 159-5 … 2014 highlight was winning Youth Olympic Trials at 168-2, but was followed by an injury that took away several weeks and compromised what the year could have been.
  • Jocelen Ruth – 146-2 PR – Kutztown Area, PA junior – PR’d by more than 8 feet when she hit 146-2 at Blue Raider Invite in April … went on to win Class AAA District 3, took 4th at AAA state, then 8th at NBNO (137-6, 2nd best of season) … PR she brought into 2015 was also 137-6 … outstanding all-around thrower also has PRs of 138-9 in the discus, 134-4 in the hammer and 45-4 in the shot.

MEN COLLEGE/OPEN ELITE:  Rematch for top trio of 270-footers

The JavFest is thrilled to have the USATF Senior 1-2-4 finishers – and #1-2-3 ranked throwers in the U.S. – here for what could be called a rematch, but also a mid-summer tune-up for the IAAF Worlds and another chance for one of its number – Riley Dolezal – to get a qualifier for Beijing.  Sean Furey and Dolezal occupied the 1-2 spots on the podium in Eugene, with Tim Glover 4th – but Glover is still the list leader with that 275-10.

Elite Men Profiles

  • Sean Furey – US#2 272-3 – Unatt./San Diego CA, Dartmouth ’05, Meuthen MA ’00:  Won 3rd USATF title in Eugene last month (also ’10, ’14) with PR 272-9, #11 U.S. all-time … made ’12 Olympic team for London after finishing 4th in Trials because he had the qualifier and another did not … also was a finalist in 2009 IAAF World Champs … took 3rd in Pan Am Sports Festival last year … top NCAA placement while at Dartmouth was 3rd in 2005 … as a Meuthen, MA senior in 2000, he won NSAF jav title (then Foot Locker Outdoor) with 216-3.
  • Riley Dolezal – US#3 266-3 – Nike/Fargo ND, North Dakota State ’09, Stanley ND ’04:  Potentially made 2nd U.S. team with 2nd-place finish at USATF Seniors (264-11), but still needs qualifier of 269-0 to go to Beijing … has 266-3 best this year so far from NY Diamond League … exploded on the scene with 273-11 – a PR by more than 30 feet – at ’13 USATF Champs to make team for IAAF Champs in Moscow … in ’14 was 2nd at USATF champs and ranked #6 on U.S. list with 260-11 best for the year.
  • Tim Glover – US#1 275-10 – Unatt./?, Illinois State ’13, Normal IL ’09:  Took 4th at USATF Champs with 244-5, but currently is on Team USA due to US#1 275-10 qualifier from April meet in Knoxville … fate for Beijing team rests on whether Dolezal and Sam Crouser make qualifiers … that 275-10 makes him the #5 American ever and furthest active U.S. thrower, after also leading list at 275-7 last year … has more throws over 80m than any active American … 2-time NCAA champ (2011-12) while at Illinois State … was 5th at ’13 USATFs and 3rd last year … 6th in 2012 Olympic Trials.
  • Curtis Thompson – US#10 248-1 – Mississippi State, Florence NJ ’14:  Won 2nd straight USATF Junior title last month … took 3rd at NCAA champs as a frosh with 247-5 … also competed at USATF Senior meet, taking 6th … was U.S. prep leader in jav in ’14 at 224-10 … just 3rd at NBNO, but bounced back to win Juniors and Chicagoland before bowing out in World Junior qualifying.
  • Barry Krammes – US#22 237-11 (259-1 in ’08) – East Stroudsburg St. ’04, Pottsville ’00):  One of NSAF Project Javelin coaches and key in bringing JavFest to his city of residence where he competed in college and teaches … two-time Olympic Trials finalist (’08-’12), with PR coming in 2008 qualifying … runs and coaches preps and other youth in The Javelin Factory … has placed in top 6 four times at USATFs … 2-time All-American at ESSU.
  • Timothy VanLiew – 260-8 PR – Adidas GS/Deptford NJ, Rutgers-Camden ’12, Deptford ’07:  Qualified for USATF champs this year with shocking 260-9 PR in Tucson that still ranks #4 on U.S. list … was off-form in Eugene, however, throwing 227-0 for 9th … previous best was 238-4 in ’13 when he was also 9th at USATFs … two-time NCAA D3 champion and 3-time All-American.
  • Ethan Shalaway – 228-0 PR – U. of Pittsburgh, Boyertown PA ’13:  2-time bronze medalist at ACC Champs … 2-time NCAA East qualifier … 7th at NBNO in ’13 with 193-2 … 208-8 PR in high school.
  • Gary Zack – 226-6 PR – Bethlehem PA, Moravian ’12:  Two-time NCAA D3 All-American, including 1st in ’11 and 2nd in ’12.
  • Michael Brazzel – 224-7 PR – Team Lee/North Arlington NJ, Georgia Court U., North Arlington HS ’14:  10th at NBNO last year and had 206-1 PR (3rd at NJ MOC) … made NCAA D2 meet this year, qualifying 3rd before taking 16th.
  • Phillip Ragan – 224-0 PR – Belmar NJ, Manhattan College ’15, Christian Bros Acad NJ ’11:  Set college best of 215-8 while getting 2nd at MAAC meet … qualified twice to NCAA East regionals … 5th at Penn Relays and 11th at USA Juniors as a prep senior in ’11.

WOMEN COLLEGE/OPEN ELITE – Rising star Ince is class of the field

Ariana Ince, now the #7 all-time performer in the javelin, heads up the field with 17 feet on the rest of the competitors.  Her story of progressing to 196 feet while not taking up the jav until her 3rd year at Rice is amazing.

Elite Women Profiles

  • Ariana Ince – US#3 196-10 PR – Unatt./Houston TX, Rice U. ’11, Gonzales TX ’07:  Took another big step forward as elite with 196-4 PR at Mt. SAC this year, #7 all-time U.S. … threw 190-4 at USATFs for 5th … previous bests were 189-11 in ’14 (9th USATF), 185-11 in ’13 and 175-5 in ’12 … the 185-11 in ’13 earned her 2nd at USATFs, but she did not have the qualifier to meet World Champs … was a vaulter in high school – a state champ with 12-6 PR – then added the javelin in college, hitting 157-10 PR while also vaulting 13-5! … also a 4,713 point heptathlete in college.
  • Monika Gruszecki – 179-5 PR – Club Northwest/Kalispell MT, Western Washington ’11, Meadowdale WA ’06:  NCAA D2 champ while at Western Washington in 2007 and 2011 … 3-time All-American … 18th at USATFs … set PR this year at Shoreline meet.
  • Kelsey Hay – 167-10 PR – Lehighton PA, U. of Penn junior, Palmerton Area PA ’12:  Two-time All-American at Penn, where she holds school and Ivy League record … 13th at NCAAs last month after 4th at NCAA East regional … two-time Heps champ.
  • Taylor Slaney – 165-6 PR – Canonsburg PA. U. of Pittsburgh senior, Canon-McMillan PA ’11:  One of best in ACC, taking 3rd this year … set Pitt record in ’14 … IC4A medalist … made NCAA regionals all 4 years … 137-11 PR in HS while getting 3rd at AAA state.

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