Olympic legends joining NSAF Project Javelin and Triple clinic this weekend in Phoenix

by Steve Underwood

With four of the greatest all-time talents and innovative minds in their respective events joining the NSAF’s Project Javelin Gold and Project Triple Jump joint clinic this weekend (Nov. 8-11, 2018), the stage is set for an incredible and historic experience for dozens of athletes at the ALTIS and EXOS training facilities in Phoenix.

For Project Javelin Gold, 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist and 2018 European Champion Thomas Röhler, and 6-time Olympic and World Championships finalist Raymond Hecht, will be joining the NSAF staff and athletes from Germany. The two successive German national record-holders over the past 20+ years, Röhler is #3 (308-1/93.90m in 2017) and Hecht #7 (303-10/92.60m in 1995) on the all-time world javelin list.


For Project Triple Jump, former World Record-holder Willie Banks and current Olympic Record-holder and 1996 Olympic Gold medalist Kenny Harrison are here with NSAF coaches and athletes from California. As American record-holders, the reigns of Banks with his 58-11.5/17.97m in 1985 and Harrison with his 59-4.25/18.09m in 1996, spanned 30 years before Christian Taylor set the current standard. Harrison and Banks still rank #3 and #6 on the all-time world list, respectively.

The Project Javelin Gold athletes returning for their 2nd clinic of the 2018-19 season include seniors Skylar Ciccolini (Mifflin County HS, PA), Ty Hampton (North Bend HS, OR) and Anna Hall (Valor Christian HS, CO); juniors Zechariah Blake (John Curtis HS, LA), Sam Hankins (Manhattan HS, KS) and Joe Nizich (Central Catholic HS, OR); and first-year athletes Sydney Juszczyk (Trinity Catholic HS, MO soph), Katelyn Fairchild (Andale HS, KS soph) and Alianna Eucker (Bergen Tech HS, NJ soph).

The Project Triple Jumpers, also coming back for their 2nd seasonal clinic, include juniors India Turk (Howard HS, GA), Nick Drayden (DeSoto HS, TX), Ty Trinh (Loyola Blakefield HS, MD), Riley Burger (Notre Dame HS, MO) and Malcolm Clemons (St. Mary’s HS, CA); and 1st-year Project jumpers Jadan Hanson (Uniondale HS, NY jr), Orsciana Beard (Zachary HS, LA soph) and Jordan Hardy (Hampton HS, VA soph).

Ciccolini (javelin) and Clemons (long jump) each represented Team USA at last month's Youth Olympics in Buenos Aries, with Ciccolini placing sixth and setting a U.S. record for the 500g jav and Clemons having placed fifth in the long jump prelims with a strong effort – before scratching the final with a hamstring twinge.

Hall, meanwhile, is the national prep record-holder in the heptathlon, who has trained with Project Javelin several times to focus on that sixth of her seven events. Several of the other Project athletes are New Balance Nationals All-Americans and/or have won NBN Freshman and Emerging Elite events as rising stars.

More than 50 additional registered student-athletes will also be training with the Project athletes this weekend, including national-class javelin talent like 2018 NBNO champ and World U20 silver medalist Tzuriel Pedigo; Project Javelin alums (now starring in college) Sophia Rivera (Missouri) and Katelyn Gochenour (Duke); and other outstanding current and post-collegians like Chris Mirabelli, Rebekah Wales and Brittni Wolczyk.

Of course, the entire event will be led by the NSAF’s own world-class coaching staff. For the javelin, that will for this weekend include Head Coach Tom Pukstys, Barry Krammes and Kim Hamilton. Coach Pukstys, as well as Duncan Atwood – rejoining the NSAF staff this weekend – are former American record-holders. For the triple jump, Head Coach and Project founder Peter Pratt and Project Coordinator/Coach Macka Jones will be leading the event, as always.

“When athletes are exposed to the very best in their field, it is always a learning experience,” said Coach Pukstys regarding our international javelin guests. “Either you learn what to do, or even what not to do. Thomas and Raymond are exceptions, though. They know the event at the most extreme levels, but are also beacons of passion on behalf of the event. There is no doubt that everybody there will learn something that will help them throw better!”

Said Coach Jones regarding the American TJ legends on hand, “Our triple jump kids have already had some amazing opportunities to work with Willie Banks and with Kenny Harrison over the past few years, but this is the first time we’ve had both of them with us, together, for an entire clinic. That, combined with the outstanding ALTIS facilities and training conditions here in Phoenix, will make a truly special training and learning opportunity for all of the student-athletes here this weekend. Willie and Kenny are just as special as coaches as they were athletes.”

Also serving the athletes’ development in her special, unique way will be NSAF Sports Psychologist Dr. Margaret Ottley, who has worked with both Projects, as well as the NSAF’s Caribbean Scholastic events and national championships – not to mention serving various national track and field teams at multiple levels.

John Godina, the former world-class shot putter and discus thrower who founded ALTIS – an NSAF partner since 2017 – is thrilled to be able to host the NSAF for this event. “We are lucky to be able to bring in elite coaches and athletes in our normal course of business, but this will be the largest event we have hosted to date,” he said. “Having this much athletic and coaching talent onsite is a rare treat for us … This clinic, although it will be directed by the NSAF, fits our mandate to grow and support the sport of track and field at all levels for both coaches and athletes.”

The facilities, on and off the track, are some of the most outstanding with which the NSAF Projects have ever had the opportunity to train.

“ALTIS partners with EXOS, the number one sports performance training company in the world, for our home-base of education, off-track training, recovery and therapy,” Godina added. “We partner with Paradise Valley Community College for our track, which is located adjacent to the college golf course. Our facilities literally have everything you could ever want as an athlete or coach from the basics of the track and weight room to some of the most advanced training equipment: Including force plates, Keiser pneumatic power systems, 1080 Sprint, all physical therapy and athletic training modalities, in-ground hot and cold hydrotherapy and more. We and our partners at EXOS train the best athletes in the world, and the facility reflects the commitment to the needs of the athletes.

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