Ironwood Throws Classic Preview: 4 prep national leaders top entries

by Steve Underwood

Four U.S.-leaders and 10 other national top-10 performers highlight the outstanding fields of preps competing this coming weekend (May 31-June 1) in the 2019 Ironwood Throws Classic.

The elite NSAF throws event is in its 4th year at Ironwood and provides an opportunity for top high school athletes to compete alongside and be mentored by some of the USA’s top elite throwers – including Olympians, aspiring Olympians and other pros and post-collegians. The history of the event goes back to 2013, when the NSAF partnered with what was then the Chicagoland Throwers Series.

Skylar Ciccolini (girls’ javelin), Ty Hampton (boys’ javelin), Daniel Viveros (boys’ shot put) and Gretchen Hoekstre (girls’ shot put) each lead their respective events on the U.S prep lists this spring. Ciccolini – a 3rd year athlete with the NSAF’s Project Javelin – in fact, is #2 all-time with her 184-2 PR and leads a field in that event that includes 160-footer Tanya Simora and Project super soph teammates Katelyn Fairchild and Sydney Juszczyk -- four U.S. top 10 throwers overall. In the boys’ javelin, Hampton, Sam Hankins and Joe Nizich are the current top three in the country and all represent Project Javelin – as does defending champ Zech Blake.

The boys’ shot put field includes not only Viveros, but the year’s only other 70-footer – Tanner Duffin. Joining Hoekstre in the girls’ shot is Faith Bender, the country’s #2 sophomore and Viveros’ teammate at Bakerfield, CA’s Liberty HS. Bender is also throwing the discus, where she is US#3 and the top 10th-grader. She is accompanied in that event by Shelby Frank from North Dakota, right behind her on the national list.

Duffin is also doubling up, part of a boy’s discus field that features the nation’s #2-3-4 throwers in Jacob Lemmon, Duffin and Jordan Johnson. Also invited was national leader Devin Roberson, who had to decline due to post-tornado cleanup in his hometown of Jefferson City, MO. Finally, the hammer is not part of the prep (or men’s elite) slate at Ironwood this year, due to scheduling conflicts with top competitors, but there will be a women’s competition and some of the preps may join in.

Meet director Jarred Rome has also assembled another impressive field of more than 30 elite athletes to compete with the preps, including Olympians Gia Lewis Smallwood (American record-setter discus), Whitney Ashley and Maggie Malone (NCAA record-setter javelin); 69-foot shot putters Josh Awotunde and David Pless; 214-discus throwers Jason Harrell and Brian Williams and many more.

Here are brief profiles of each of the Team NSAF throwers:

The Four National Leaders

Skylar Ciccolini – 184-2 JT
  • Mifflin County, Lewistown, PA, Class of 2019
  • Notes: Ciccolini’s 184-2 PR at the Penn Relays rocketed her up to #2 all-time HS and was her 2nd title there … she is unbeaten, leads the 2019 U.S. prep list by 16 feet and just defended her AAA state championship last weekend … she joined the NSAF’s Project Javelin Gold in Fall, 2016 and has improved 50 feet since … Ciccolini has also repped Team NSAF with winning performances in the Bahamas and Germany, and competed for Team USA in the Youth Olympics last fall … the Missouri signee was the 2017 Ironwood champ here as a soph.
Ty Hampton – 221-4 JT
  • North Bend, OR, Class of 2019
  • Notes: Hampton’s 221-4 in his 5A district meet reclaimed the current prep national lead from Project Javelin teammate Sam Hankins … his comeback this spring from surgery after missing 2018 in the event has been truly impressive … the Oregon signee won his 2nd state title last weekend (5A), throwing 213-11, after also winning 4A in ’17 … has four meets over 200 this year and six over 196 … Hampton was an NBNO All-American in ’17, taking 4th in Greensboro, and also was 3rd at Ironwood that spring.
Daniel Viveros – 71-3 SP, 195-5 DT
  • Liberty, Bakersfield, CA, Class of 2019
  • Notes: After throwing 63-10 as a junior, Viveros has improved more than seven feet in ’19, highlighted by the US#1 71-3 PR at the CIF South Area Meet on May 8 that made him a member of the prep 70-foot club (#20 all-time US) … the Ole Miss signee defended his CIF state title last weekend with a 68-10.5 – his 5th meet over 68 during a second unbeaten spring that has included Arcadia and Mt. SAC victories … Viveros set his discus PR at the Patriot Games in April and finished 5th at state, 7 spots higher than 2018.
Gretchen Hoekstre – 50-1.5 SP
  • Seaside, OR, Class of 2019
  • Notes: With a massive PR of more than two feet at the Nike Jesuit Twilight Relays in early May, Hoekstre became the first and only prep 50-foot shot putter this season … the future BYU Cougar completed her unbeaten Oregon campaigns in the shot and discus with 43-8.75 and 156-11 (PR!) victories in Class 4A … she had also won the state shot in ’18 and was 2nd in ’17, while having 2nd and 3rd-place finishes previously in the discus … Hoekstre credits hundreds of hours of off-season work and help from new mentor Krystal Pike for her success.

More Outstanding Throwers

Girls JT

Tanya Simora – 160-11 JT

  • Puyallup, WA, Class of 2019
  • Notes: Like Hoekstre, Simora’s season hit a peak at the Nike Jesuit Twilight Relays in May as she reached 160-11, a PR that has stood up as US#3 … her previous best had come when she claimed the 2018 Washington 4A title at 154-6 … she was runner-up at state this time around, and also 5th in the shot put (40-3.5) … Simora also throws the discus for her team and, earlier in her career, also hurdled, high jumped and ran the 800 … she is headed to the University of Washington in the fall.

Katelyn Fairchild – 156-11

  • Andale, KS, Class of 2021
  • Notes: Fairchild – a first-year athlete with NSAF’s Project Javelin Gold – has improved her PR in four different meets during a spectacular sophomore year, topped by a stellar US#7 156-11 to win the Kansas 4A title … she also took 3rd in the shot and 4th in the discus in leading Andale to another team title … her first 150-footer (150-3) came in winning the Kansas Relays … Fairchild’s freshman javelin best had been 149-6 at her regional meet, followed by a state 4th-place finish … she’s the top 10th-grade javelin thrower in the nation.

Sydney Juszczyk – 155-0 (161-8 in ’18)

  • Trinity Catholic, St. Louis, MO, Class of 2021
  • Notes: Juszczyk had an astonishing freshman javelin campaign in ’18, leading all 9th-graders nationally at 161-8 – a mark hit in April and again for 2nd at American JavFest in June … she also won her 1st Missouri state Class 3 title and took 8th at USA Juniors against much older girls and women – all of which earned her an invite to the NSAF’s Project Javelin … so far as a soph, Juszczyk defended her state title and has thrown 152 or better three times … she also claimed 3rd-place finishes in the triple jump and 100 hurdles at state.

Taylor Ciccolini – 146-1 JT

  • Mifflin County, Lewistown, PA, Class of 2021
  • Notes: Ciccolini, a different type of athlete than her older sister – perhaps epitomized by the fact that she’s also an 11-foot pole vaulter – has improved more than 30 feet in the jav this spring to become one of the best in PA … in fact, with her 146-1 PR at her district meet, she’s ascending toward national class … Ciccolini followed that with a 3rd place finish at AAA state where her sister had defended her title.

Girls SP and DT

Faith Bender – 168-06 DT, 47-04.75 SP

  • Liberty, Bakersfield, CA, Class of 2021
  • Notes: Few schools in the country have boys/girls throws combo like Liberty HS in Bakersfield, CA – with young standout Bender and the aforementioned 71-foot putter Daniel Viveros … Bender hit 160-7 DT and 45-0.5 SP as a freshman and took 4th and 12th at NBNO … this year she improved her DT 5th at state as a frosh to 2nd last weekend with her new PR of 168-6 … her 47-4.75 shot best came in a Central Section Masters triumph … Bender also had runner-up finishes at Arcadia and Mt. SAC.

Girls DT

Shelby Frank – 167-0 DT

  • Red River, Grand Forks, ND, Class of 2020
  • Notes: Frank is already a 4-time North Dakota state discus and 2-time state shot put champ, having claimed her 1st title in 8th-grade and with another year to go … she’s hasn’t lost a discus competition in ND since the start of her freshman year … she had a mighty 161-0 DT as a frosh and won USATF JOs (15-16) … Frank nailed her new discus PR at this year’s Dakota Relays, reaching 167-0, and is getting more consistent over 160 … she finished her soph year in ’18 by battling older athletes at USA Juniors, taking 10th with 158-9.
Boys JT

Sam Hankins – 220-02 JT

  • Manhattan, KS, Class of 2020
  • Notes: Hankins has traded the US prep national lead back and forth with NSAF teammate Ty Hampton, with his season’s best US#2 220-2 at the Dakota Relays coming within seven inches of his career PR … he won his 3rd straight Kansas state title and in ’20 can complete a rare career state meet sweep in a boys’ event … he has had 10 meets over 200 feet this spring… Hankins was victorious for Team NSAF at both last year’s Caribbean Scholastic meet in the Bahamas and at the JenJavelin summer competition in Germany.

Joe Nizich – 213-06 JT

  • Central Catholic, Portland, OR, Class of 2020
  • Notes: After nosing his javelin PR over 200 feet a few times at the end of his soph year in ’18, Nizich has been consistent over that barrier during a breakthrough 2019 … he’s improved his PR in five different meets, peaking at US#3 213-6 at districts and then winning his first 6A state title at 209-3 … Nizich is unbeaten this spring and will be throwing with fellow unbeaten (5A) Oregonian and NSAF teammate Hampton for the first time at Ironwood … older brother John, a former NBNO champ, is a senior thrower at Oregon.

Zechariah Blake – 214-4 JT (’18)

  • IMG Academy, Bradenton, FL, Class of 2020
  • Notes: Blake is still looking for a big throw in the javelin in 2019, having been working hard on all of his throws since his transfer this spring from John Curtis HS (La.) to IMG … he is the defending jav champ here at Ironwood … his top career moment in the jav has been the PR runner-up finish at NBNO last spring … Blake will be joining Team NSAF in Cuba in June, along with Project Javelin teammate Sydney Juszczyk … he swept the shot, discus and jav last spring as a soph at his 5A state meet.
Boys SP and DT

Tanner Duffin – 70-2.25 SP, 206-2 DT

  • St. Pius X, Atlanta, GA, Class of 2019
  • Notes: The Throw 1 Deep Club may be best known for developing hammer and weight throwers, but Duffin has thrived almost exclusively in shot and disc, where he has become the country’s top combo thrower … with a fairly prodigious slate of meets between his team and club, he has kept improving, surpassing the 70 and 200 barriers in the past several weeks … he swept both titles in Georgia AAAA, as well as the state Meet of Champs … Duffin was 8th in the disc at NBNO last year … he has also thrown 72-9.75 in the weight.
Boys DT

Jacob Lemmon – 209-6 DT

  • Fort Myers, FL, Class of 2019
  • Notes: Lemmon’s PR and Florida state record 209-6 led the nation’s preps from the day of that performance at the Lee Co. Champs Apr. 6 until last weekend’s 218-footer by Devin Roberson … he was unbeaten this spring as he surpassed 200 feet five times and defended his Florida 3A state title … Lemmon was 6th at NBNO in ’18 … he also won his state shot title this spring and had a best of 58-7.25 … he’s athletic enough to have competed as a prep in the jumps, dashes and pole vault.

Jordan Johnson – 206-1

  • Quincy, IL, Class of 2019
  • Notes: Johnson threw over 205 feet three times this spring, including a PR 206-1 at the Collinsville Invite and a 205-8 to capture the Illinois 3A state title … he also nailed his shot PR at the Collinsville meet at 62-1 – though he was off form and 6th at state … Johnson was also a 61-5.75 performer in the weight this past winter … in ’18 he also won the state 3A discus title and was 15th at NBNO … he was a USATF JO 15-16 national champ in the DT in ’17.

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