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girls throws | 08-09 most outstanding performers

This is the sixth of a series of DyeStat year-end awards for 2008-09. The DyeStat Most Outstanding Performers series, which precedes the DyeStat Athlete of the Year awards, includes top honors for boys and girls distances, sprints/hurdles, jumps, throws, relays, and multi-events. Selections are made by DyeStat editors and are based a combination of multiple major victories/honors won and performances on all-time and yearly lists. Performances from outdoor track, indoor track, and cross-country are taken into account..

Text by SteveU - Photos by John Nepolitan and Robert Rosenberg

Anna Jelmini

For many athletes, it would be enough pressure to be shooting for one national record in a year.  After all, though she had reached #4 all-time in the discus as a junior, countless athletes have learned that following up a huge junior year with an even bigger senior campaign is no easy task.  But no, Anna Jelmini made it clear from the beginning of 2009 that she not only wanted the discus USR – which was less than five feet away – but also the shot USR, which was also less than five feet away.  The idea that Jelmini could improve from 183-11 to 188-04 was one thing, however; from 50-04 to 54-10.75, quite another.

For this pursuit, the Shafter CA senior quit basketball – where she scored 18.9 ppg as a junior – and got busy in the rings.  She competed just once indoors, but it was memorable: a 51-05 shot at Simplot that raised her PR by more than a foot, reigned all winter as US#1, and made her =#9 all-time US.  Outdoors, she was quickly up over 180 feet and 51 feet and, given that she doubled in just about every meet, began to make those lofty standards routine.  Arcadia was an early highlight, with a magnificent 185-05/51-00.50 double.  Anticipation built over when the record would come.  Two weeks later, against collegiate competition at the low key UCSD Triton Open, Jelmini sent the platter 188-04 from the ring, tying Suzy Powell’s 1994 mark.

On May 9, Jelmini got up over 52, with 52-03 in the shot, and added 184-06, at the South Sequoia Finals.  Then four days later, the senior had a day that no prep throws fan can ever forget, at the Sequoia-Sierra Finals in California’s Central Section.  First, she moved atop the all-time discus list, alone, with a throw of 190-03.  That was great, but what followed really wowed the track world: A monster 54-04.75 SP that moved her to #2 all-time, six inches behind Michelle Carter’s USR.  No other girls thrower is even in the top 10 in both events all-time and Jelmini stands alone among track athletes overall with top-two rankings in two outdoor events.

While she never reached those numbers again, Jelmini dominated the rest of the season.  She doubled her state meet with 50-05.75/186-09 (with a 53-00 prelim), and then went 53-00 and 174-10 at USATF Juniors – plus, a 187-09 for 7th in the Senior Women’s DT.  At Pan Am Juniors, against the best prep or junior competition she’d faced yet, Jelmini won a great battle with Canadian Julie Labonte in the shot, but finally suffered a loss in the discus.  It was a minor setback, however, in one of the greatest seasons any prep track athlete ever had, certainly on the throwing side.

Heather Bergmann

There something about Kansas and javelin throwing that seem to go hand-in-hand.  A disproportionate number of the nation’s top boys and (especially) girls seem to come from that state in many years.  It’s not like there’s a club like Throw 1 Deep that is developing them, so there’s no particular explanation that’s been found.  In 2008, Kansas girls ranked 1-4-5 on the U.S. list.  Heather Bergmann was #4 and the other two Kansans graduated.  Still, she was the #3 returnee.  Could she move to the top?

Make no mistake, though.  Despite her high ranking and 165-06 PR coming in, it can hardly be said that Bergmann had a laser focus on the event.  She spent her winter as a key starter on a state championship basketball team and is known as an all-around athlete and student leader at Concordia HS.  And with her hoops team’s extended season, she got a late start in throwing this spring.  In 2008, she had thrown her PR in April, but this year, mid-month, she hit just 140-00 at the Kansas Relays.  Still, she gained her first win at the event that serves as the regular-season highlight for most of the state’s track athletes. 

A month later, though, Bergmann was reaching top form.  At her region meet, she exploded to 160-05, taking the national lead.  A week later, she completed her long-sought goal of a state title with another great throw – 162-08 – to take the 4A crown.  To this point, Bergmann had only competed in one post-season meet during her career, and never the Nike Outdoor Nationals.  But she finally made her first trip to Greensboro and faced the other two throwers ranked ahead of her coming in – Deloma Miller PA and Hannah Carson AZ.  On a day when long throws were at a premium, Bergmann hit 157-02 for the win.  She will take the memory of an undefeated season to the next level.

Lauren Chambers

A year-long pursuit of history’s top marks in the weight and hammer throws was Lauren Chambers’ destiny this year; there was no question.  In the first part of the year, it would be Victoria Flowers’ fresh 62-02 with the weight that she would be chasing, with the Rhode Island star having moved on to college.  Chambers was #4 all-time in that event at 58-10.50.  Then she would narrow her focus to the relatively ancient standard set by Idaho thrower Maureen Griffin in 1998, the 201-07 that has withstood the decade’s best.  She was #7 there at 184-09.

While Chambers was a senior at Kell HS in Marietta GA, she was best known as the leader of one of the country’s premiere clubs, Throw 1 Deep.  She was ensured of never having a lack of opportunities or competition, though indoor meets for the weight throw could be a challenge.  In early December, outdoors, Chambers got going with a 57-11.25 national leader in the weight.  On January 4, she PR’d with 59-09.50, then a week later got a strong indoor mark with 58-04.75.  Later in the month, she came within an inch of 60 feet outdoors.  Finally, on Feb. 7, Chambers went to the famed cage at The Armory and exploded out to 61-07.50, the #2 throw in history.  That was as far as she would get, though, as the rest of the winter became a somewhat frustrating chase.  She won the big weight at Simplot and at NIN, but would have to settle for second-best ever.  The nationals weekend did produce one big PR, though, a 49-01.25 SP at NSIC.

Outdoors was a similar story.  Even before NIN, Chambers had already improved to 191-11, #4 all-time and the easy US leader.  That stuck until May 8, when she flung the hammer 201-06, a big PR and #2 all-time, but an agonizing inch short of the USR.  Still the season had more than a month left.  The same weekend, she had a 190-02 and improved her shot PR to 46-04.25 at the Georgia Invite.  But the record, and getting the biggest throws in the biggest meets, was daunting.  She hit 198-03 and 201-03 in club meets in early June, then at NON hit just 174-09 for the win and at USATF Juniors, 180-01 for 3rd and her first loss to a high schooler, Casey Kraychir.  In late July, Chambers added the USATF JOs title.

Alex Collatz

When an all-time great athlete is in their prime, those behind them, as good as they may be and as high as they might rank in most other years, tend to get lost in the shuffle.  In 2008 and 2009, the excellence of Anna Jelmini, who would become the greatest prep thrower ever, cast an enormous shadow over the field in the prep discus and shot.  But in Jelmini’s own state, California, there was another prodigious talent moving up the lists.  Last year, Alex Collatz was the best freshman discus thrower in the country, reaching 159-04, and as a soph, only four returning seniors would be ranked ahead of her. 

As athletic as Jelmini is, Collatz might be even more so.  To wit, she would triple jump over 36 feet several times this year, reaching 36-09 for her best.  How many throwers would even try such an event, let alone being able to win local meets?  But that’s what the Stockton soph brings to the table.  Collatz quickly got her discus PR up to 163-07 in the early spring, then matched that mark behind Jelmini at Arcadia.  She developed great consistency in the low 160s, while also moving her shot PR above 40, then above 42 feet. 

Discus throwers long for the days when the winds and everything else is clicking, and the California state meet prelims was such a day for Collatz.  On one mighty heave, she reached an eye-popping 177-00, for US#2, a US sophomore record, and a throw longer than what Jelmini reached – even if it was the prelims.  The next day, Collatz was back in the 160s and Jelmini won by 20 feet, but the sopp was on her way to a big post-season.  With Jelmini opting for USATF Juniors, Collatz went to NON and won her first national title with 162-06.  Next was the World Youth Trials and, on a cold morning three time zones from home, she took that event.  That earned her first international trip and she was a strong medal favorite in Italy.  She led qualifying, then came home with the silver in 162-01, ending a fantastic sophomore season.

Honorable Mention

Casey Kraychir – As has been a family tradition, and with a relative lack of opportunity in their part of the country, Casey Kraychir of Twentynine Palms, CA competed infrequently, but also continued to be a great big-meet thrower.  Indoors, she threw 56-10.75 with the weight to rank #3 US, but didn’t compete at nationals.  Outdoors, she had 178-07 by late May, then powered out to a huge 190-03 PR at the USATF Arizona meet, breaking Maureen Griffin’s junior class record and adding the US soph and frosh marks she had set in previous years.  Still an underdog to US#1 Lauren Chambers at USATF Jrs, Kraychir then came up with 187-09 for the upset and a trip to Pan Am Juniors.  Wearing the Team USA uniform for the first time, she was 5th with 172-07.

Emily Vannoy – As much as any thrower in the country, Vannoy was dialed in this year to the goal of winning Nike indoor and outdoor titles.  She was a veteran of the meets, with the indoor edition having been right in her backyard until this year.  With last year’s 1-2 of Karen Shump and Becky O’Brien graduated, she badly wanted the NIN crown to finish off her indoor season, but with the pressure on and Canadian Julie Labonte unexpectedly in the house, the Thomas Johnson MD sr was off form and three-fouled her way out of the meet.  After recovering from that tough episode, Vannoy set her sights on repeating at the Penn Relays, which she did in style.  After winning state, she came to Greensboro ready to make sure nothing would stop her.  This time, nothing did, as she finally got a coveted national title at 48-02.50.

Erin Pendleton – Breaking that 170-foot discus barrier would prove to be tough for the Woodmere OH senior this year, with her sister’s 180-footers from a few years earlier a distant goal.  But it was also important for Pendleton to be consistent and make another Team USA, which she would have a chance to do at season’s end.  So she consistently hit 160s all year, repeating as state champ and also getting her shot up to 40-07.25.  At NON, she was 2nd with 161-06.  But on the big stage in Eugene, Pendleton really came through.  She edged Aslynn Halvorson by the slimmest of margins, throwing a PR 169-05, and taking 2nd behind Anna Jelmini to make the Pan Am Juniors team.  In Trinidad and Tobago, she earned the bronze medal to close out her prep career.

Deloma "Fawn" Miller – 2008 was an amazing year for Miller of Lakeview HS in Stoneboro PA, as she exploded on the national scene and hit a PR 167-02 for a US soph and age-16 record, as well as US#3.  Such lofty distances would prove elusive this year, but Miller still established consistency in the 150s and was at least a factor at every championship.  At the Penn Relays, she won with 150-11, then at the Eric McDowell meet was out to 157-08.  She repeated at PA state, then battled the nation’s best at NON and came up 2nd at 153-05.  With the goal of making it to Italy, Miller competed in the World Youth Trials and won again with 153-02.  While she didn’t make the final at World Youths, she gained valuable international experience to carry over to her senior year.

Year-End Awards Index