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115th Penn Relays

Thu.-Sat., April 23-25, 2009

Franklin Field, Philadelphia PA

Nick Vena rewrites the recordbooks


April 24, 2009
PHILADELPHIA - A few weeks ago, Nick Vena was digging through a crate of shots in his basement when he stumbled upon one that he hadn’t seen in a while.

He immediatley reached in and grabbed it.

``It was the one I used to win at the Penn Relays last year and I hadn’t used it since last year,’’ said Vena, a sophomore at Morristown. ``I figured that since it worked well for me at Penn last year that I should use it again.’’

It turned out to be great decision as Vena found even more magic in that 12-pound ball yesterday when he put together one of the greastest shot putting performances in U.S. history at the 115th Penn Relays.

On his first throw in the final round, Vena sent the shot put soaring toward the sunny sky behind Franklin Field. And it kept going and going, travelling well past the final chalk mark in the throwing area. When it finally crashd to the gravel surface, it was obvious it was going to be a throw for the ages.

When the tape measure was pulled all the way out there, the official called out the measurement mark of 22.01 meters. In feet that came to a mind boggling 72-2 ½, sending the crowd of 500 plus that packed around the brand new throwing area into a frenzy.

Vena’s throw smashed the New Jersey, meet, U.S. sophomore record and the U.S. record for a 16-year-old.

Vena is now ranked No. 6 on the all-time U.S. list and is No. 1 in the nation  this season.

His throw is the furthest by a U.S. high school athlete since Brent Noon of Fallbrook, California let losse a 76-2 in 1990. Noon was a three-time NCAA champion at Georgia and the 1995 U.S. outdoor champion.

```It was an unbelievable day,’’ said the 6-4 1/2, 270-pound Vena, who turned 16 on April 16. ``Everything came together and I had the best series of my career.’’

Vena actually broke the meet and national sophomore records on his first attempt in the trials (69-7 ½),  and the N.J. record on his second try ( 70-5 ¾). After a 70-4 ½ on his last throw of the trials, he exploded with the 72-2 1/2 in his attempt in the final.
Vena, who had a foot foul and a sector foul to close out his memorable day, is just the second boy to repeat as shot put champion, joining John Stephens of North Rockland High School, N.Y., who won in 1988 and ’89.

On his 72-2 ½, Vena clenched and pumped his fists in jubilation when it landed.

``It had some much height and was right down the middle and it just kept going,’’ said Vena, who will most likely earn his second straight MVP award when it is announced today. ``I knew it was pretty far. After my first throw, I just tried to keep correcting the little things I was doing wrong on each throw after that and I was able to really get my technique down and things turned out great.’’

Morristown coach Paul Buccino couldn’t believe his eyes

``It just kept going and going,’’ said Buccino. ``I thought it would never come down. It cerainly was a remarkable performance by a remarkable athlete.’’

The Penn Relays record of 67-3 was set 24 years ago by J.J. Grant of  Liverpool (N.Y.). The New Jersey outdoor record of 69-8 ¼ was set in 1997 by Kevin DiGiorgio of Bayonne.

The other records Vena broke were the national U.S. sophomore record of 68-10 ¾ by Kevin Bookout of Stroud, Okla. in 2000, and the U.S. 16-year old national record of  71-10 ¼, set in 1983 by Arnold Campbell of Airline High in Bossier City, Louisiana.

``It’s an honor to break some many records held by some really great throwers,’’ said the 6-4 ½, 270-pound Vena.

Kevin DiGiorgio was on hand to see his state record go down and watched in awe.

``That was pretty unbelievable,’’ said DiGiorgio. ``I knew he’d get my record, but to get to 72 feet already as a sophomore is just incredible. He is so quick and so strong and that combination has made him a incedible talent. And to perform so well under pressure is all a sign of a great thrower. He’s got it all and there is no telling how far he can throw.’’

Vena is now nine feet and one inch away from the national record of 81-3 ½, set in 1979 by three-time Super Bowl champion Michael Carter of Jefferson High in Dallas, Texas, which is considered one of  hardest records in track & field to break.

`I like to get it within five or six feet,’’ said Vena, whose previous best of 70-5 came when he won his second straight title at the National Scholastic Indoor Championships in New York last month.

Can Vena break Carter’s record one day?

He’s to modest and humble to make predictions, but it certainly now seems reachable.  

Here is the list of the top six shot put throwers in U.S. high school outdoor history.

1-Michael Carter, Jefferson High, Dallas, Texas, 81-3 ½, 1979
2-Brent Noon, Fallbrook High, California, 76-2, 1990
3-Arnold Campbell, Airline High, Bossier City, Louisiana, 74-10 ½, 1984
4-Charles Moye, Ellet High, Akron, Ohio, 72-8, 1987
5-Sam Walker, Samuell High, Dallas, Texas, 72-3 ¼, 1968
6-Nick Vena, Morristown, New Jersey, 72-2 ½, 2009