The joint Project Triple Jump and Project Javelin Gold clinic that runs from today (Aug. 8) through Aug. 11 at the Sanford Sports Complex in Sioux Falls, S.D. has become so special – now in its third year – that it’s come to signify something more for the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation.
This annual event, held in partnership with the Sanford Sports Science Institute (SSSI) now represents the start of a new year for the NSAF. You could say the 2019-20 track and field season (emphasis here on the “field”) for the Foundation kind of begins now with this event – which each annum brings together for the first time the returning and new athletes in the NSAF’s two podium Projects.
“It’s true, this become a great way for us to kick off the new school year with our Project kids,” says Kristi Rieger, the NSAF’s Director of Special Projects who is based here in South Dakota’s largest city. “Between Sanford’s awesome facilities and our partnership with them, and our access to Howard Wood Field right nearby, they have a super opportunity to begin the season in the strongest way possible.”
The NSAF and the SSSI entered into partnership in 2017, and the Project athletes trained here that August for the first time. Both parties have been looking forward to each year’s edition ever since.
The experts of the SSSI conduct innovative exercise physiology, concussion, nutrition, and biomechanics research and offer 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 athletes are engaged in battery of physical tests and measurements to identify their physical characteristics. The data is 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 has been to 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.
The 16 NSAF Project athletes had individual testing appointments, as well as a group testing experience – all before the main clinic began Thursday night. Testing and all indoor training is held at the Sanford Pentagon and the Sanford POWER Fieldhouse on this campus, while the clinic’s outdoor training venue – Howard Wood Field, an outstanding T&F and football stadium that hosts state championships and the nearly century-old Howard Wood Dakota Relays – is just minutes away.
“We are really happy to again host the NSAF Triple Jump and Javelin Performance Clinics here at the Sanford Sports Complex,” said Thayne Munce, Associate Director of the SSSI. “The student-athletes who join us here are exceptionally talented and dedicated to improving themselves in their respective events and all areas of life. It is an honor for us to be part of their development and help them to reach the ambitious goals they have set.”
The NSAF Project Javelin athletes training here this weekend include six returning athletes and two newcomers. Returning to the roster (and Sanford) are seniors Sam Hankins (Manhattan HS, KS), Joe Nizich (Central Catholic HS, OR) and Zechariah Blake (IMG Academy, FL), plus juniors Katelyn Fairchild (Andale HS, KS), Sydney Juszczyk (Trinity Catholic HS, MO), and Alianna Eucker (Bergen Tech HS, NJ). Those training as program athletes for the first time are juniors Taylor Ciccolini (Mifflin County HS, PA) and Collin Burkhart (Nazareth HS, PA).
Meanwhile, the NSAF Project Triple Jump group here includes senior Jadan Hanson (Uniondale HS, NY), plus seven first-time participants who have applied and are being evaluated for a spot in the program for this school year. They are: Johnny Brackins (Lee’s Summit HS, MO junior), Jayla Brown (McEachern HS, GA junior), Cameran Gist (Spartanburg HS, SC soph), Kendall Jordan (Cummings HS, NC junior), Christian Lewis (Frederick Douglass HS, KY senior), Jade McDonald (Calabasas HS, CA junior) and Floyd Whitaker (Highland HS, NJ junior).
The coaching staffs for both the Project Triple Jump and Project Javelin Gold are about as good as it gets. The TJ coaches include 1996 Olympic triple jump gold medalist and Olympic record-holder (59 feet, 4 inches) Kenny Harrison, Project Head Coach Peter Pratt – a Bahamian Olympian and national team coach – and Project Coordinator Macka Jones. Head Coach Tom Pukstys, a 2-time Olympian and former American record-holder (285-10) leads the javelin staff. He is joined by Olympic Trials finalists Barry Krammes and Kim Hamilton, as well as Louisiana-based elite coach Rob Woosley.
The weekend also includes classroom and video review sessions, plus those led by the NSAF’s Sports Psychologist, Dr. Margaret Ottley and Sanford Nutritionist Lizzy Kasparek. Joining the NSAF Project athletes are additional coaches, jumpers and throwers of all ages who registered for the clinic, coming from around the region and the country.
“It’s great to have an opportunity again to work with the outstanding coaches and NSAF staff who will be leading the Performance Clinics,” added Sanford’s Munce. “They are truly world-class in what they do and have so much knowledge and expertise they can share with all participants. Together, these clinics provide an unparalleled learning environment.”