Vena Breaks Freshman National Record

Morristown’s Nick Vena isn’t much for words. He’s pretty stoic for a 14-year phenom shot-putter who is getting more attention every time in steps into a throwing circle.

But Vena is amazing. Not just because he is a freshman that stands 6-4, 260 pounds or the fact that he is as nimble as a figure-skater. It’s because he gets better every week, even though he’s so much better than everyone else. Vena broke the freshman national shot put record again today at the NJ Varsity Classic,tossing 63 feet, 2 3/4 inches, the top performance in the country this season.

Vena topped his own class record he set last Wednesday, 61-10 1/4 at the NJ Metropolitan Invitational.

“My series was great today,” Vena said. “I felt like I was on the ball today. I was really surprised about today.”

He followed his record throw with a heave of 62-11 ½. Vena is a baby-faced man-child and as polished as a collegiate thrower. He started throwing in the third grade and started using the spin technique by the sixth grade.

“Before he came into high school this kid was pushing a 12-pound shot over 50 feet,” Morristown coach Paul Buccino said.
Neither Vena nor Buccino would say how far Vena was hoping to throw this season. They said his goal was to break the freshman national record. He has also been pushing it up since.

“It’s been a great experience for me,” Buccino said. “I’ve enjoyed having him on the team because I’ve really been about to learn a lot from in and he’s definitely raised my interested in learning more about the shot.”

Teaneck senior Damian Miles tied his Bergen County record, winning the 200 meters in 21.8 seconds. Miles snatch the lead just after 100 meters and held off a solid field in the homestretch.


“I saw my teammate (David Butler) in the lane outside of me and it just pushed me to go even harder,” Miles said. “I’m happy with it. I just want to keep getting faster.”

Chris Steliga of Cherokee won the long jump in 22-8 1/2 on his first attempt. It was his second meet of the season and season debut in the long jump. Steliga missed the start of the season with a pulled quadriceps muscle in his right leg, which he suffered during football season.
“I was just really pumped on my first jump,” he said. “It felt weird at first (getting on the runway) but I guess all the work paid off. It’s good for me to just get right into it.”

Steglia fouled two of his jumps in the trials and one in the final, proving that he is still working on his approach but he said a big jump is around the corner. His winning jump was an indoor personal best.

“I had a couple 23 foot jumps that I fouled by just a hair,” he said. “I know I can jump 23.”

Eastside senior Marcus MacKenzie won the high jump in a personal best as well, clearing 6-8. He said he knew from the start that he something special would happen.

“I felt confident today,” he said. “I usually know from my first jump whether or not I’m going to have a good day. If my first jump is perfect I’ll be good for the rest of the meet. My first jump was good so I knew I’d be good today.”

MacKenzie has nowhere to practice the high jump during the winter season. He said he normally doesn’t practice for the high jump until the outdoor season. So he uses the meets to adjust his technique.

“The meets are like practice and meets at the same time,” he said. “I just come in and do what I have to do.”

Menelik Lewis of New Rochelle won the triple jump in 45-5 3/4. Lewis, a senior, is being courted by Boston, Pittsburgh and Indiana. He said he is finally starting to round into shape after struggling in the early part of the season.

“I was on top of my game today,” he said. “I should have been out to 47. I was stutter-stepping a lot and having trouble with my steps. But I felt really good.”

Reach Christopher Hunt at

Photos by Tim Fulton/