Vena makes Junior team in shot put; Cuffe, Fountain finish 3rd, get NY records

Nick Vena, the junior at Morristown (N.J.) High School, won the Junior men’s shot put at the USATF national championships on Thursday, making the U.S. team for the World Juniors. Vena put the 6k (13.2#) shot 66-1. Hayden Baillio, a freshman at the University of Texas, was second, at 65-3 ¼.

Vena’s mark is believed to be the second-longest ever by a U.S. prep using the relatively new 6k implement. It is a little more than a pound heavier than the standard high school shot.

A New Yorker qualified for the national team in the women’s shot put. Rachel Roberts, a freshman at Buffalo from Remsen – a small community in Oneida County, not far from Utica – put 49-5 ¾ for 2nd place. The winner was Brittany Smith of Illinois State, 50-6 ¾.

In the girls’ 3,000 meters, Aisling Cuffe (Cornwall Central, NY) ran a lifetime best but finished 3rd. Only the top two finishers make the national team in each event. Cuffe, a junior, ran 9:20.94, breaking the New York state all-time record of 9:21.37, by Molly Huddle (Notre Dame, Elmira) in 2002. The top two finishers were Emily Sisson, a senior at Millard North H.S. in Omaha, Neb., 9:18.73, and Jordan Hasay, freshman at the University of Oregon, 9:18.92. Emily Jones of Georgetown finished 4th (9:40), Sam Roecker of Providence 5th (9:48).

Whitney Fountain (Columbus, NYC) fell back on Day Two of the heptathlon after a strong first day, but nearly caught the leaders with a tremendous concluding 800. Fountain won the 800 in 2:17.39 and finished 3rd with a two-day total of 5,197 points, breaking the New York all-time record of 4,953 set by Heidi Mann 29 years ago.

Fountain began Thursday with 17-7 in the long jump and just 91-7 in the javelin to fall more than 300 points behind the leader, Ashley Smith (Millikan HS, Long Beach, Calif). With 122-7 in the javelin, Alex Gochenour, a high school girl from Ames, Iowa, also moved ahead of Fountain. Smith ran 2:35.62 in the 800, losing 235 points to Fountain, but enough to remain in 2nd place, while Gochenour ran 2:19.14 and won the competition, scoring 5,300. Smith was 2nd with 5,270. Smith also did 19-0 1/2 and 112-7, while Gochenour did 17-1 ½ in the LJ. Fountain’s score was also the 2nd-highest ever by an Eastern prep, trailing only the 5,522 by Ryann Krais (Methacton, Pa) in 2008.

Cuffe is also entered in the 5,000 later in these championships, which are being held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Cuffe is the defending champion in the 5k. The World Juniors will be held later this summer in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Jen Clayton (Suffern, NY) also finished 3rd, in the women’s long jump, jumping 19-9 ¾ on her final jump. Karynn Dunn of Stanford took the lead in Round 5, jumping 20-4 ½, one-quarter inch ahead of Andrea Geubelle (Kansas). Clayton’s series was 19-4 ¾, 19-7, 19-5 ¼, foul, foul, 19-9 ¾ (+05). Clayton is a freshman-to-be at Louisiana State.

In preliminary competition, Virginia freshman Robby Andrews advanced in the men’s 800, as did high school sophomore Ajee Wilson (Neptune, NJ) in the women’s 8.

Andrews won Heat I, in 1:51.41, while in Heat III two natives of Connecticut moved on as well. Cas Loxsom, a freshman at Penn State, won that race in 1:48.79, just ahead of Hamden H.S. senior Chris FitzSimons, 2nd in a lifetime best, 1:49.36. Bill Ledder (Gonzaga Prep, DC) failed to advance on time, running 1:51.97.

In the women’s 800, Wilson won Heat I in the day’s fastest time, 2:07.16. Among those failing to advance were Nijgia Snapp of Seton Hall (2:11) and Leah Wightman of Albany (2:16).

The Junior men’s long jump squad will be two Easterners. The event was won by Justin Hunter (Ocean Lakes, Virginia Beach), with a big 25-10 ¾, followed by Carlton Lavong (Methacton, Pa) 24-7 ¼. In 4th was Marquis Dendy (Middletown, Del) 23-6 ¼.

Other Eastern Juniors finishers included Evonne Britton, Penn State freshman, 2nd in the women’s 100 hurdles in a lifetime-best 13.37; Harold Lathan (Harcum College), 5th in the men’s hurdles, 13.76, and in the men’s steeplechase, Arquimedes Dela Cruz (Marist), 9:28 in 10th, and Craig Weiss (Albany), 9:43 for 16th. /JP/





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