Among the many great qualities the 123rd Penn Relays will embody this weekend at Franklin Field will be as a showcase for NSAF Project Javelin Gold athletes. Five Project throwers, including defending boys’ champ Liam Christensen and current top NSAF girls’ performer Meghan Owens, are among the entrees. Add in girls’ national record-holder Madison Wiltrout and you have a pair of events Thursday and Friday that will be well worth venturing well beyond the stadium, to the throwing fields along the railroad tracks, to witness.
Boys – Christensen aims for title defense
Leading the boys’ competition is the Project’s only senior, defending Penn champ Liam Christensen (Academic Magnet, SC). Christensen opened his season here in ’16, winning with a then-PR 219-2, and could become a rare two-time winner this Friday. He went on last year to win New Balance Nationals Outdoor with his PR of 232-1 and this weekend will again serve as a season opener. The Stanford has big goals for 2017, this among them, and hopes to again represent Team USA – as he did at the World Youth Champs in ’15 – and come home with a medal to wrap up his prep career.
The other Project athlete in the boys’ field is Gavin Darcy, the Dunmore, PA junior in his first year in the program. Darcy has had a relatively low-key start to his campaign, hitting 180s in a few meets off the invitational circuit. This will be his Penn debut. His PR stands at the 206-4 which earned him runner-up in the American Javfest last summer.
Several others who have thrown at least 190 feet will challenge the NSAF duo. Foremost among them are Ethan Dabbs, Cade Antonucci and Nick Mirabelli. Dabbs (Richland, PA jr) was 5th at Penn as a soph last year with 205-8 and had a best of 208-0 for the season – best among the nation’s 10th-graders in ’16, just ahead of the NSAF’s Darcy and Roman Mitchell (also 206-4).
Antonucci (Holy Spirit, NJ sr) and Mirabelli (Rancocas Valley, PA jr) are both in their first Penn Relays. Antonucci had a massive 35-foot improvement in ’16, including NJ state Group and Meet of Champs titles in 206-10 and 205-8, respectively. He then took 8th at NBNO, with 194-3, and so far this spring has reached 198-0. Mirabelli’s big jump has come this year, as he’s gone from 178-7 to 206-8, the latter mark winning last week’s Woodbury Relays over Antonucci. Mirabelli’s brother, Chris, is a Rutgers U. junior who recently hit 250-0 for the first time after having been a 2-time NBNO All-American and Pan Am Junior champ.
Also in the field is Chris Putnam, a Massapequa, NY senior who has thrown 189-10 in recent weeks. He and older brother John (Class of ’15, now at Auburn) each trained several times with the Project.
Girls – Owens among top challengers to Wiltrout
National record-holder Madison Wiltrout (Connellsville, PA sr) has been on a year-plus comeback from the surgery that ended her epic soph campaign in ’15, and hopes her first Penn title in her second appearance will be another step on the road toward regaining the form that enabled her to throw 185-8 two years ago to take down Haley Crouser’s standard. Wiltrout was 2nd at her first Relays earlier that year behind Project Javelin’s Sophia Rivera – who set the still-standing Penn record that year with 169-6 and is now a redshirt freshman at Wisconsin.
Wiltrout set her record two weeks after Penn in ’15, but then injured her elbow during a 182-8 performance at her state meet. Last year, she got back to 164-1 to defend her state title, then was 2nd to the Project’s Katelyn Gochenour at NBNO and 5th at USATF Juniors. But this season, the UNC signee has already progressed to a nation-leading 173-10 (in just her 2nd meet), raising hopes that she can come “all the way back.”
The next two seeds are defending Penn champ Maura Fiamoncini (Mount Carmel, PA sr) and Project Javelin Gold’s Meghan Owens. This will be the first Penn for Owens, who is in her second year with the Project. She had a best of 155-1 last year as a Mercer County freshman – the #1 9th-grader in the nation – and was 7th at NBNO before injuries slowed her in the summer. In her only meet so far this year, 3 weeks ago, she hit 152-9.
Fiamoncini is currently US#5 with her 2-week old PR of 157-5. She triumphed here last year at 150-11 after taking 5th as a soph in ’15 and is also the defending AA state champ in PA. In fact, she hasn’t lost in Pennsylvania in the two years – though this will be her first time vs. Wiltrout since ’15. Two Jamaican athletes are also threats near the top: Georgetta Samuels of Holmwood Tech with a PR of 153-0 and Sah-Jay Stevens of St. Jago at 151-1.
The other aforementioned Project Javelin entries are Skylar Ciccolini (Mifflin County, PA soph) and Lillian Hill (North East, PA jr). Ciccolini has a ranked best of 140-7 so far this season, beating her pre-’17 PR of 134-11, and has reportedly thrown 150+ in a dual. Hill has been within six inches of her 135-5 PR this spring and has a great chance to break it Thursday. Morgan Bower, the Millville, PA senior who’s improved to 151-11 this season, is a former Project thrower who will also be very much in the mix.