Project athletes to get tested, meet Olympians at special Sioux Falls clinic with Sanford POWER

by Steve Underwood

Special experiences await the talented student-athletes of NSAF’s Project Javelin Gold and Project Triple Jump this week during a joint clinic in Sioux Falls, S.D. that will connect them with the NSAF’s new partner from Sanford Health and its unique testing opportunities with its Sanford Sports Science Institute. As an added bonus that has serendipitously unfolded during the planning of this event, the Project athletes will have an incredible chance to meet and learn from six U.S. Olympians -- whose combined Team USA Olympic experience covers 32 years and 8 Olympiads.

This marks the beginning of the 2017-18 season for each of the Projects, the 7th since they were launched by the NSAF in 2011. And it’s a landmark week in this partnership with Sanford Health – which was announced earlier this year. The combined 17 Project athletes (plus two special guest multi-eventers) are participating in elite athlete testing at the SSSI Wednesday-Thursday, August 9-10, followed by the main clinic Friday-Sunday, August 11-13. The main clinic is open to all interested athletes and coaches, and the NSAF expects at least three dozen additional participants from several states.

“This is a very special clinic for all of these kids and for the NSAF,” said Jim Spier, Executive Director of the Foundation. “We are thrilled to be in Sioux Falls and working with Sanford. The testing is used at the highest levels, including professional athletes and teams. It can certainly help identify key areas of weakness and strength for the individual athletes.”

“It’s been great to get to know the leaders at Sanford Health and learn of the mission of their Sports Science Institute,” said Kristi Rieger, Director of Special Projects for the NSAF. She is from Sioux Falls, had become familiar with Sanford’s work in her community and played a big role in fostering the partnership – which announced Sanford as the Official National Sports Medicine Research Partner of the NSAF. “They’re very interested in supporting the development of young elite athletes, through science and research, which makes for a great opportunity for this mutually beneficial partnership.”

Testing at the SSSI

The testing and indoor training will take place at the Sanford Pentagon and the Sanford POWER Fieldhouse, a pair of adjacent facilities that are also just minutes away from the clinic’s outdoor training venue: Howard Wood Field – a premier track-and-field facility in the region that hosts state championships and the nearly century-old Howard Wood Dakota Relays. It could hardly be a more ideal set-up.

The Sanford Sports Science Institute’s experts conduct innovative exercise physiology, concussion, nutrition, and biomechanics research and the SSSI offers a variety of cutting-edge athlete services using state-of-the-art equipment and facilities that are unmatched in the region. These services include detailed physiological evaluations in a controlled environmental chamber; comprehensive gait analysis; fitness testing; sport nutrition testing and consults and on-field assessments. The Project athletes have individual testing appointments while here at the clinic, as well as a group testing experience on Thursday morning.



The idea is to put the athletes through a battery of physical tests and measurements to identify the athletes’ physical characteristics, noted Thayne Munce, director of research and development for the SSSI in a recent local story on The data will be compared to local and regional athletes to pinpoint what differences may be present, and will be tracked over the trajectory of each athlete’s career. The goal is test annually during the 5-year agreement, and to not only improve the health, safety and performance of all NSAF athletes, but also to measure progress and development in key areas and its effect on performance.

Another unique feature of the weekend will be the opportunity for the athletes to receive high-level professional video analysis. They will be filmed by Asko Roine, the creator of Vulcan Vision, who will be providing and running his simultaneous-multi-angle filming and analysis for all participants (and as a free service to the NSAF).

Meeting Olympians

And yet another exciting feature of this clinic is that Project Triple Jump will host a very special guest coach: Three-time Olympian (’80, ’84, ’88) and former world-record holder Willie Banks. Coach Banks will join the Project’s Head Coach Peter Pratt and Coordinator/Coach Macka Jones to guide all of the jumpers this weekend. Of course, the Project Javelin Gold coaching staff features Olympians and national record-setters, as well, in Coaches Tom Pukstys (’92, ’96) and Duncan Atwood (’80, ’84), along with additional mentors in Coaches Barry Krammes and Kim Hamilton.

But Coaches Banks, Pukstys and Atwood are not the only Olympians the Project athletes are having a chance to work with this week. 1984 110m hurdles Olympian Greg Foster is part of a group from Agogie – a new NSAF partner – which made a presentation to the kids Wednesday afternoon regarding their new wearable resistance tights. And a side trip to nearby University of South Dakota Thursday will afford an opportunity to meet USD Coaches Derek Miles and A.G. Kruger – Olympians in the pole vault (’04 and ’08) and hammer throw (’04, ’08 and ’12), respectively.

It’s been said that the Thursday night individual roundtable discussions planned at USD, which will include all of the above-mentioned individuals, may be the biggest gathering of Olympians ever in South Dakota.

Multi-event stars training with Project Jav

Those testing and later training with the Project Javelin Gold group will include not just the year-round Project athletes, but also a special pair of multi-eventers who have made their mark at NSAF events and beyond in 2017. Kyle Garland and Anna Hall claimed the boys’ and girls’ pentathlon titles at NBNI in March, then were chosen for Team NSAF to compete in CSI (now the Memorial Barrientos) in Cuba in May. Garland – now a senior at Germantown Academy in PA – won the Junior decathlon while Hall, a Valor Christian HS (CO) junior, took the Junior heptathlon.

Garland went on to runner-up finishes at the USA Junior Nationals, then the Pan American Juniors in Peru – improving his PR to 7,035, then 7,212 points – and Hall again came close to 5,000 points with her runner-up finish in the NBNO hept. Now both are here in Sioux Falls, to hone their skills in the penultimate event of their respective outdoor multi – the javelin – while also taking part in the testing.

As far as the nature of the weekend’s training itself, it happens that mid-August is typically the time of year when most athletes have either just wrapped up late summer competition and/or are coming off a break since a late spring or early summer season’s end. In either case, the focus is on transitioning to building a fall training base that will provide a foundation for the 2017-18 season to come.

And, of course, in this case it’s a chance for the 2017-18 rosters of Project to gather together and train as a group for the first time – Project Javelin Gold having mostly a group of returnees already familiar with each other, but Project Triple Jump being a balanced combination of returnees and newcomers (see below).

Project Javelin Gold – Building on success

Seven athletes from the 2016-17 Project Javelin Gold roster return for this dawning school year, with 2-time NBNO champ Liam Christiansen the only graduate. The two new additions – soph Sam Hankins and senior Dana Baker – joined the Project during the recent American JavFest. The current group includes five NBN All-Americans – seniors Gavin Darcy, Roman Mitchell and Baker, and juniors Ty Hampton and Skylar Ciccolini – as well as senior Lillian Hill. It also features the three leading boys’ throwers, nationally, in the Class of 2019: Hankins, Zechariah Blake and Joe Nizich.

Below is the roster, with school, class, PR and a few major meet placings:

  • Gavin Darcy – Dunmore HS (PA) senior
    Jav PR 212-10 – NBNO 3rd, PA AA 1st
  • Ty Hampton – North Bend HS (OR) junior
    Jav PR 208-9 – NBNO 4th, OR 4A 1st
  • Roman Mitchell – Southeast Raleigh HS (NC) senior
    Jav PR 207-6 – American JavFest 1st, NBNO 6th
  • Sam Hankins – Manhattan HS (KS) soph
    Jav PR 205-11 – JavFest 2nd, KS 6A 1st
  • Zechariah Blake – John Curtis HS (LA) soph
    Jav PR 198-0 – LA 5A 3rd, Iron Wood 4th, JavFest 4th
  • Joe Nizich – Central Catholic HS (OR) soph
    Jav PR 184-5 – OR 6A 3rd, Twilight 4th, JavFest 6th
  • Dana Baker – Olathe North HS (KS) senior
    Jav PR 169-2 – NBNO 2nd, JavFest 1st, KS 6A 1st
  • Skylar Ciccolini – Mifflin Co. HS (PA) junior
    Jav PR 164-9 – Iron Wood 1st, NBNO 4th, PA AAA 2nd
  • Lillian Hill – North East HS (PA) senior
    Jav PR 144-5 – PA AA 4th, JavFest 4th
Project Triple Jump – Exciting mix of the new and experienced

With four new student-athletes on the roster, including a 2-time NBN All-American and some new young talent, the 2017-18 campaign should be intriguing and exciting. Titiana Marsh, who was 2nd at NBNO in June, is joined by New Englands champ Triston Delicema and talented sophomores Nick Drayden and Ty Trinh. Seniors Allyson Weiss and Saudia James-Heard lead the returnees, along with junior Marcus Floyd and soph India Turk. 3-time NBN All-American Jalen Seals, Arielle Mack and Jordyn Lesh were the 2017 graduates.

Below is the full roster, with school, class, PR and a few major meet placings:

  • Triston Delicema – Nashua North HS (NH) junior
    TJ PR 48-1.25 – New Englands 1st, NH MOC 1st
  • Nick Drayden – Desoto HS (TX) soph
    TJ PR 46-1.5 – TSU Relays 1st, TX Dist 6A-7 5th
  • Marcus Floyd – Middleburg HS (FL) junior
    TJ PR 46-0.5 – FL 3A 2nd, NBNO EE 9th
  • Ty Trinh – Loyola Blakefield HS (MD) soph
    TJ PR 44-11 – NBNO Fr 1st, MIAA/IAAM 4th
  • Titiana Marsh – Thomas Dale HS (VA) senior
    TJ PR 43-5 – NBNO 2nd, NBNI 4th
  • Saudia James-Heard – Curtis HS (WA) senior
    TJ PR 40-3.25 – WA 4A 2nd, WCD3/SWD4 3rd
  • Allyson Weiss – East Ridge HS (MN) senior
    TJ PR 40-1.25 – MN AA 1st, Hamline Elite 1st
  • India Turk – Howard HS (GA) soph
    TJ PR 39-6 – GA 4A 1st, NBNO EE 4th


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