Dolezal entry makes the biggest, best American JavFest even better

by Steve Underwood

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3rd Annual JavFest begins Friday

The 3rd Annual American JavFest, already clearly set to be the biggest and best in the revived event’s 3-year history, just got even better this week – thanks to Riley Dolezal.

The National Scholastic Athletics Foundation (NSAF) event, to be held Friday-Sunday, July 7-9 at East Stroudsburg High School in Eastern Pennsylvania, will not only be a wondrous celebration of the javelin for both ardent devotees and aspiring neophytes of the discipline – but it will be an important chance for some of the USA’s top elites to gain qualifying marks for the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London during Sunday’s elite competitions. Throwers and coaches can still register to participate at Admission to the competitions at ESHS – beginning at 2:30pm on Friday and noon on Sunday – is free.

The qualifying opportunity Sunday is where Dolezal comes in. The North Dakota native – winner of the first JavFest, elite men’s division, in 2015 – won his 2nd USATF title July 24 in Sacramento with a U.S.-leading throw of 81.77m (268-3). However, that left him 1.23m (or four feet) short of the 83.00/272-3 standard for London. He originally planned to come to JavFest, altered his plans when it appeared he had a spot in a conflicting IAAF Diamond League event in Europe, then committed to JavFest a few days ago when the Diamond League plans fell through.

Dolezal won’t be alone in chasing the men’s Worlds standard; nine of the top 10 finishers from Sacramento – including 2-time Olympian Cyrus Hostetler – will also be on hand Sunday in search of ticket-earning marks. And that chase is just one of many reasons this weekend’s JavFest will be great. Some others:

  • 2015 JavFest champ Arianna Ince and LSU All-American Rebekah Wales, the 2-3 finishers at USATF, will compete in the elite women’s division Sunday, chasing their own standard for the IAAF Worlds (see details on this and other bullet points below).
  • The six boys on the current NSAF Project Javelin roster will all be on hand, leading the prep entries. Two-time NBNO champ and US#1 Liam Christensen will compete with the men’s elites. NBNO All-Americans Gavin Darcy, Ty Hampton and Roman Mitchell will battle for the boy’s elite title Sunday, along with nation’s top three freshmen – Sam Hankins, Zech Blake and Joe Nizich.
  • Two NSAF Project Javelin girls will compete in a combined women’s/girls’ competition Sunday, including All-American Skylar Ciccolini (4th at NBNO) and Lillian Hill. They will be joined by NBNO runner-up Dana Baker and 3rd-place finisher Erin McMeniman.
  • On Friday afternoon, more than 30 throwers will compete in high school boys’ and girls’ open competitions. In fact, there are more than 70 entrants in the combined JavFest competitions, exceeding the previous best of 55.

On the other hand, the three-day JavFest is about much more than just the competition. There are also wonderful opportunities for training and instruction, roundtable discussions with the Project Javelin elite coaches and athletes, and general fellowship with javelin devotees. All in all, it’s three full days for athletes, coaches and families either in the love with the javelin or wanting to learn more.

A noble history: Creation and Relaunch

The JavFest was originally launched by Coach Jeff Gorski in 2000, as a Klub Keihas (his club) event with some athlete funding from USATF while Gorski was Men's Javelin Development chair. Coach Gorski funded the rest of the event himself, assuring high quality, and it has held four times: At the Penn Relays (twice), Boston and Portland. It was intended as a stateside version of the epic, week-long annual javelin carnival Pihtipudas, Finland.

In 2011, Coach Gorski and the NSAF co-founded Project Javelin Gold. One of the Project’s coaches became 2008 Olympic Trials finalist Barry Krammes, who had trained with Gorski. Krammes had gone to school and now coached at East Stroudsburg, as well as launching the nearby Javelin Factory. When the NSAF first hosted a clinic at East Stroudsburg one season, it was a huge success and, given Pennsylvania’s status as a “javelin hotbed,” relaunching the JavFest there became a logical step forward.

Besides Gorski and Krammes, the incredible JavFest coaching staff includes two-time Olympians Tom Pukstys (1992-1996) and Duncan Atwood (1980-1984), as well as recent 2-time Olympic Trials finalist Kim Hamilton. All work with the NSAF’s Project Javelin Gold and are considered at the forefront of javelin education in the U.S. – and of course, Pukstys and Atwood are on the very short list of the best U.S. throwers ever, having both set American records during the 1980s and 90s.

Also scheduled Saturday afternoon is a sports psychology session at ESHS with the renowned Dr. Margaret Ottley, who has worked with national Olympic team athletes from multiple countries and has been part of the NSAF staff (particularly for Team NSAF at the Caribbean Scholastic Invitational) for many years. Then the weekend will all build to a climax Sunday as many of the nation’s best throwers at both the elite and prep levels will come together for the final competitions.

More on the elites

As mentioned earlier, the most loaded of Sunday’s competitions will be the Elite Men’s event at 4:00pm. Nine of the top 10 finishers at the recent USATF Outdoor Championships will be on hand, trying to attain the World Championships qualifying standard of 83.00 meters (272 feet, 3 inches). No U.S. thrower has achieved that distance within the qualifying period that began last October and runs through July 21.

Aforementioned USATF champ Riley Dolezal, who also won the Iron Wood Throws Classic in June, is the American most likely to qualify for Worlds and, hopefully, make the final and perhaps more. His PR of 83.50m (273-11) dates back to 2013, but many times he has been “knocking at the door” with throws within a meter or two of that mark.

The other contenders and pursuers of qualifiers, include two-time Olympian (2012/2016) Cyrus Hostetler (2nd at USAs), 2016 NCAA champ and Olympic Trials runner-up Curtis Thompson (6th), Penn State’s Michael Shuey (3rd), 2016 Olympic Trials finalist Tim Van Liew (4th), NCAA All-American Chris Mirabelli (8th) and Andrew Fahringer (7th). Also entered is another Trials finalist from last year, Rutgers alum Chris Carper. Shuey was also 3rd this year at NCAAs as a senior and 2nd in the Big Ten behind Rutgers’ Mirabelli.

Of the entries, Hostetler (261-6), Shuey (255-8), VanLiew (253-6) and Mirabelli (253-4) are closest to the standard in terms of best marks in 2017. But Hostetler threw 275-0 and Thompson 271-1 last summer. Bottom line: At least 5-6 throwers have a shot at a qualifier.

As for the women, USA champ Kara Winger has surpassed the qualifying standard of 61.40m (201-5), but the #2-3 finishers who will be here Sunday – Arianna Ince and Rebekah Wales – have not. Ince was the women’s champion in the inaugural JavFest and has a PR of 198-10 from earlier this year – #2 behind Winger among Americans in ’17 and #7 all-time. Wales just finished her senior year at LSU, where she was this past spring’s SEC champ with a PR 191-0 and is a 3-time NCAA All-American.

More on the preps

There’s no championship qualifying at hand for the elite preps, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be out in force. As mentioned, the boys’ entries are led by 2-time New Balance Nationals Outdoor (NBNO) champ Liam Christensen (Academic Magnet, SC senior), who will actually compete against the elite men and is then headed for Stanford in the fall. He leads all preps nationally with a best of 228-0 after hitting 232-1 in ’16. He was also a 2-time champion at the Penn Relays.

Also in the field are Pennsylvania AA state champ Gavin Darcy (Dunmore HS, PA jr), 3rd at NBNO and 4th on the national list at 212-10; Oregon 4A champ Ty Hampton (North Bend HS, OR soph), 4th at NBNO and #9 on the national list at 208-9; and Roman Mitchell (Southeast Raleigh, NC jr), 6th at NBNO and with a PR of 206-4 from ’16 (199-10 this year). All are Project Javelin Gold athletes.

Then the nation’s three best freshman throwers from this spring will be in the house: Sam Hankins (Manhattan HS, KS) at 205-11, and the Project’s Zech Blake (John Curtis HS, LA) at 193-5 and Joe Nizich (Central Catholic HS, Portland, Ore.) at 185-3.

The girls’ elite field is led by rising seniors Skylar Ciccolini (Mifflin Co. HS, PA jr) and Dana Baker (Olathe North HS, KS jr). Ciccolini was the runner-up behind Madison Wiltrout in the PIAA Class AAA meet, then fourth at NBNO – behind Wiltrout and Baker (second). But she has the top prep mark in the field at 164-9 – from the Iron Wood Throws Classic in Idaho – which is #2 on the national list.

The 3rd-place finisher from NBNO, Erin McMeniman (Dracut HS, MA jr), is also in the field – coming off her PR 147-3 in Greensboro. Also from Project Javelin will be Lillian Hill – a North East HS, PA junior who was fourth in the PIAA Class AA meet.

The full schedule for the weekend and more details can be found here:

About the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation

The NSAF is a non-profit organization with the mission to inspire youth to live active, healthy lifestyles and to prepare them for future success. Each year, the NSAF hosts over 11,000 athletes at its two national track and field championships and one cross country invitational, events and several national and international development programs. The organization also supports hundreds of athletes through its unique mentorship and development programs, and event clinics and camps, while distributing over $200,000 in grants every year.

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