All of us throws fans in the Chicago area owe Tom Pukstys a big, fat man-hug for putting together a great meet last Saturday, June 7. He got a bunch of elite athletes to come from the Olympic training center in Chula Vista, and somehow rounded up outstanding high school throwers from all over the country. Before I forget, the results can be found here:
On Friday night, the throwers gathered for a reception at Benedictine University, the highlight of which was a couple of speeches–one by Jarrod Rome and one by Art Venegas.
Jarrod, a two-time Olympian in the disc, gave a lot of encouragement to the young throwers and told a hilarious story about how L. Jay Silvester, one of the all-time discus greats, advised him to take a shot at the NFL because he’d never succeed as a discus thrower. Luckily, every time Jarrod told his mom that he was thinking about hanging it up, she cried. Dutiful son that he is, Jarrod could not stand to see his mother cry so he kept at it.
Art, the longtime throws coach at UCLA and current throws coach at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, also directed encouragement towards the young throwers. I taped most of his talk, and it is worth watching. Art has been in the business for about twelve decades, but he has lost none of his competitive spirit and cantankerousness. And he is very funny. You can find his speech here:
The throwing events took place the following day, and I have to admit, I did a lousy job of covering them. In my defense, there was so much going on, so many fine throwers competing, so many interesting people to talk to that it would have taken a crack team of expert throws journalists to keep up with it all. There just wasn’t enough of me to go around, doggone it, so I focused on one flight of the elite shot put competition and one flight of the elite discus and covered them like the proverbial blanket. Here are some photos from the shot:
This is Russ Winger, who won with a toss of 20.53m (67’4.25″).
This is Braheme Days, the fine high school thrower from New Jersey who put the 12-pound ball 19.78m (64’10.75″).
This is Nick Ponzio, a high-schooler from California who put the 12-pounder 19.99m (65’7″).
Brandon Lombardino from Grant High School here in Illinios. He put 18.09m (59’4.25).
Kurt Roberts. He finished second with 20.09m (65’11″).
Another look at Braheme Days.
Joe Kovacs, who finished fourth in last year’s Olympic Trials. Joe put 19.83m (65’0.75″).
This is Nick Baatz of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Nick put 17.88m (58’8″).
This is Jacob Thormaehlen, formerly of the University of Texas. Jacob put 18.97m (62’3″).
The discus competition was loaded with great talent as well. Here is 2012 Olympian Lance Brooks. He ended up throwing 60.71m (199’2″).
Here’s a vid of Lance throwing 60.30m (198″).
This is Aretha Thurmond, who has made (I believe) three Olympic teams. She finished the day with a best of 59.54m (195’4″).
Russ Winger was the only elite old guy who competed in both the shot and disc. His best throw was a sixth-round 59.08m (193’10″).
Here is a vid of that throw:
Here is Chase Madison, who had the best throw among the men with a 60.86m (199’8″) toss in round four.
Here is a vid of Chase throwing 58.30m in round 5:
Brandon Lombardino finished with a best of 56.22m (184’5″).
Two-time Olympian Jarrod Rome threw 59.76m (196’1″).
Here’s his round six throw, which was a foul:
Gia Lewis-Smallwood had the best throw of the day: 61.90m (203’1″).
Here she is throwing 58.80m in round six:
Luke Bryant, formerly of the University of Oklahoma, threw 58.83m (193′).
I do not know the name of this thrower, but check out that beard:
And now, as with every time I cover a meet, I must apologize to fans of the javelin and hammer. I don’t doubt that karma will eventually catch up with me and I will be reincarnated as a javelin catcher in my next life, but the javelin competition overlapped with the shot put, leaving me to choose between watching an event that I coach or watching one that I know next-to-nothing about.
I did get to watch the elite hammer competition, which followed the discus.
Here is Jeneva McCall, the 2012 NCAA champion from Southern Illinois University. She threw 71.75m (235’5″).
Here is a vid of one of Jeneva’s throws (although I don’t know which round this is).
Finally, here is a vid of Rudy Winkler, the fine high school thrower who had the best toss of the day–77.67m (254’10″).
I think that might have been his 77-meter throw.
Anyway, this was a fantastic day for throws fans, and I hope Tom, Greg Raimondi (Benedictine throws coach), and James Kluckhohn (Benedictine’s head track coach) make it an annual tradition.
by Dan McQuaid
this article originally appeared on the Illinois Track & Cross Country Coaches Association website on June 13, 2013