Preview: “Olympic Sendoff” highlights NSAF’s American JavFest’s triumphant return

by Steve Underwood

It’s been two long years since the NSAF’s American JavFest has graced East Stroudsburg, Pa. with its outstanding throwing, enthusiasm and energy. The 2020 JavFest – like so many other events – was a causality of the pandemic. So it’s understandable that local meet director and Project Javelin Gold coach Barry Krammes has had extra pep in his step as he prepares to host this weekend’s event, set for Friday-Saturday, June 16-17, at East Stroudsburg HS.

“It’s been a long time, and a rough time for a lot of folks, so we’re beyond happy to be able to host the American JavFest again,” said Krammes. “This event is great for our javelin community, here in Pennsylvania and really the whole country, and it’s also great for East Stroudsburg in general. At the same time, this community has given so much to the event and so many throwers have supported it. We’re so happy we can bring everyone together again.”

The overriding theme for this weekend’s JavFest has become “An Olympic Send-Off” – thanks to the presence of three outstanding throwers headed to Tokyo this month:

  • Curtis Thompson – The Mississippi State alum became a 2-time Olympian (and Trials champion) last month when he threw 271-7 for the victory in Eugene (271-11 PR). He’s competed at all five previous JavFests, including winning in 2016. He trains with Coach Tom Pukstys – also the NSAF Project Javelin Gold head coach – and the USA Javelin Project in Hoover, Ala.
  • Michael Shuey – The defending JavFest champion captured the 2019 title with a 262-4 heave (273-0 PR from '19) and was 2nd at the Trials last month. The Penn State grad was the 2019 USATF champ and also 4th in the 2019 Pan American Games.
  • Maggie Malone – Like Thompson, Malone defended her ’16 Olympic Trials title in Eugene, this with a throw of 208-4. The new American Record-holder will be making her JavFest debut after eclipsing Kara Winger’s standard with a 219-3 in Chula Vista in May. Malone is also with the USA Javelin Project and in ’16 also won an NCAA title for Texas A&M.

It must also be mentioned that the Women’s Elite field includes the USA Javelin Project’s Avione Allgood (also a Project Javelin Gold alum), who was 3rd at the Olympic Trials with a PR 193-4. She didn’t quite make the Olympic qualifying standard, but will always be able to say she stood on the podium in Eugene and has a very bright future.

“We’re so thrilled that Maggie and Avione are coming here to East Stroudsburg to join us,” said Krammes. “And it’s great to have Matt and Curtis back, who have supported us so many times and always thrown well here. Coach Tom has done an incredible job with Maggie, Avione and Curtis and so many others with the USA Javelin Project.”

Photo at right, courtesty of John Nepolitan ( Curtis Thompson lets one fly during the 2018 JavFest.

Indeed, the American JavFest and the USA Javelin Project are two of the best things about the sport in America. Coach Pukstys, the head coach of the NSAF’s Project Javelin Gold, founded the USA Javelin Project in 2019 to help athletes in the sport achieve their Team USA dreams and, obviously, it has already been a tremendous success. He has also always worked with Krammes and the NSAF to make JavFest a top-notch event. So for him to bring his new Olympians to East Stroudsburg makes this year’s JavFest extra special.

“We’re so proud of all of our athletes who have trained the past two years with us in Hoover,” said Pukstys, “and we’re thrilled that Curtis and Maggie will represent us in Tokyo, along with the others. Those three, plus Avione and all of the others have worked very hard.”

The Elite Men’s field, in fact, is nearly as stacked as the Olympic Trials and includes additional USA Javelin Project athletes Samuel Hardin and Ethan Shalaway. Capers Williamson (253-0 in ’21, 259-5 PR), Hardin (246-8 PR in ’21) and Shalaway (254-10 PR in ’21) were 6th, 7th and 10th at the Trials, respectively, and any of them could make the podium here.

Meanwhile, the Elite Women’s field also includes Canadian Ashley Pryke (188-6 PR) and Penn State’s Madison Smith (173-11).

“What the NSAF and Barry have done for the sport in East Stroudsburg has been so great for the past six years,” said Pukstys. “So to bring our Olympians (and the rest of our throwers) to the JavFest, so they can get a proper sendoff, compete here and inspire all of our young throwers and fans, is very, very special.”

Speaking of the young throwers, the Elite divisions are hardly the only ones featuring top throwers and competition. The other eight divisions, especially the High School Boys, are loaded with outstanding competitors.

  • HS Championship Boys: Collin Burkhart, The Outdoor Nationals champion and a Project Javelin Gold graduated senior, highlights the entrants. Burkhart (Nazareth HS, PA) is US#3 for the season, but in Eugene on June 30 claimed the TON title with a 209-4 PR heave. US#1 Matt Prebola, a Tunkhannock, Pa. junior preparing for his senior year, was slated to compete here but was a late scratch due to injury. He was 4th at TON, but back in May at his district meet threw 222-2 – tops in the U.S. for 2021. Burkhart has a solid chance to beat Marc Anthony Minichello’s 2018 meet record of 213-5. The next top contender is Tristan Schmidt, an Emmaus, PA junior with a 198-11 PR and who was 3rd in the PA AAA state meet.
  • HS Championship Girls: Shea Greene (Weston CT jr) tops all entrants with her 154-0 PR, set during her Connecticut State Open triumph. She will be looking to bounce back from a 13th-place finish at TON. Nicole Woods (Demarest NJ jr) is likely to be her toughest challenger with a 149-5 best – set while winning the NJ Meet of Champs. Barring an incredible improvement by one of the leading contenders, Dana Baker’s monumental meet record of 180-10 from 2018 looks safe.
  • Open Men: This division will be very competitive this year, with leading entrant Chris Fredericks of Penn State at 225-6 and a clear threat to take down the division meet record of 223-11 set by British thrower Joss Fott in 2019. Fredericks was the HS runner-up last year. He will be challenged by Project Javelin alum Roman Mitchell, the UNC sophomore with a 217-1 PR. Mitchell won the 2017 HS Championship at 207-6 and was the 2018 runner-up as well.
  • Open Women: Rodina Hewedy (114-1 PR) and Olivia Sforza (108-8) will compete with the Elite women.
  • Emerging Elite Boys: This group will have at least a dozen contestants, including four with PRs between 171 and 178 feet. Drew Mruk tops the list at 178-2. The EE meet record will be very hard to beat, however, as Sam Hankins threw 201-4 in 2017 before joining Project Javelin Gold.
  • Emerging Elite Girls: Four girls with bests of 129 feet to 134 highlight the entries here, with Allie Melchioore leading the way at 134-4. All have a shot at the 133-11 meet record set by Kira Parsons in 2018.
  • Novice Boys: At least 10 athletes will be contesting this division, with Grant Weighall (Tribe Elite) and George Kalkanis leading entrants with PRs of 158-1 and 154-6. They have a good shot at Andre Terrone’s Novice Boys meet record of 152-4 from 2018.
  • Novice Girls: Valerie Badger (111-7) and Morgan Reiner (106-0) lead the list of at least eight entrants. This division’s meet record, also from 2018, is 117-10 by Olivia Moyer.

So far in the spring and early summer of 2021, as the nation tries to recover from COVID, the NSAF has launched a new NSAF USA Meet of Champions in Myrtle Beach and hosted The Outdoor Nationals, Presented by Nike, at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon.

Now another big achievement has taken place in being able to again host the JavFest – an event smaller in scope, but which has a powerful, unique place in the close-knit javelin community.

“We’ve been so grateful to have the JavFest here in East Stroudsburg and for the fantastic job that Barry and the community have done,” said NSAF Executive Director Jim Spier. “To be able to bring it back in 2021 with more than 100 great athletes coming here makes us very happy.”

Coach Krammes is very happy, too, and also can’t help but reflect on the JavFest’s roots which inspired the NSAF in the first place. “My coach and mentor, Jeff Gorski, created the first version of the JavFest many years ago and also founded Project Javelin Gold with the NSAF. He’s a big reason why we’re here today and that we have this great Project with Coach Tom, Coach Kim Hamilton and myself. There’s a lot to celebrate this weekend and we can’t wait for the action to begin.”

Photo at left: Meet Director Barry Krammes applauds as Tony Naclario receives a Lifetime Achievement Award for Coaching Excellence at the 2019 JavFest.


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