West Xtra: Fort Cherry junior leads WPIAL javelin throwers

HIGH SCHOOL TRACK & FIELD

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Fort Cherry junior Jenna Lucas has emerged as the Rangers' -- and possibly the WPIAL's -- foremost javelin thrower, but her success with the javelin is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

"[Lucas] has been throwing the javelin since her freshman year," Fort Cherry coach Ben Maxin said. "Last year she finished second in the WPIAL to [teammate] Jessie Merckle."

Merckle, a senior last spring, went on to win the PIAA Class AA championship as well, throwing for a distance of 154 feet, 1 inch.

Lucas threw for 130-9 and took sixth place at last year's state championships, but her story had yet to be told. On April 6 at the South Hills Classic invitational at Baldwin High School, Lucas proved she is a worthy successor to Merckle, throwing the spear 146-1. She easily defeated the competition -- which included many athletes from much larger schools -- with the next closest competitor more than 28 feet behind.

The throw was huge for Lucas in many ways.

"It was her best throw ever in her career," said Maxin.

Additionally, the throw put Lucas at No. 18 in the top WPIAL female javelin throws of all time. The distance of 146-1 even qualified Lucas to participate in the USA Track and Field World Youth Trials, scheduled to take place at the University of Illinois in June. A top-two finish at the trials has the potential to qualify an athlete for the world championships this summer in Russia.

"Jenna has a good chance," Maxin said.

Lucas had a lot to say about her throw.

"I knew the competition and I was expecting to win, but I had no idea I was going to throw that far," she said. "I was hoping to hit 140, but 146 ... and top 25 is incredible for me for sure. To have already hit it as a junior is awesome."

Lucas emphasized that the 146-foot result made her excited about what she'd be able to do by the time she got to college.

Lucas is already planning for World Youth Trials this summer.

"The summers I usually reserve for javelin," she explained. "Last summer, I went to the National Youth Championships."

Lucas took first place last summer at California University, which qualified her for regional semifinals in Delaware. There, she took first again. The finals for National Youth Championships took place in Baltimore, and Lucas placed fifth.

Remarkably, Lucas has new sets of goals to meet for varsity competition in 2013.

The first she named was to beat Tamaqua Area's Christin Streisel. Streisel placed second in the state last year with a throw of 149-2.

"I want to hit 150 [feet] at least once," Lucas said. "My goal for next year is to hit 160 by the time I graduate. I want to end on a 160, which I think is possible."

This season, Lucas is conquering her goals by varying her events. The variation keeps Lucas conditioned without wearing down her throwing arm.

"It keeps her fresh," Maxin said.

"You can put her in any of eight events and know she's going to do very well in all of them."

Lucas actually placed seventh out of 72 long jumpers at the South Hills Classic. She recorded a 15-71/2 that day.

Then at a recent double-dual meet against Carlynton and Keystone Oaks, she threw the discus 92 feet 5 inches, a personal record for her and good enough to rank seventh in WPIAL Class AA among reported results.She also ran the hurdles in that meet and won the event.

Lucas also plays volleyball for Fort Cherry in the fall and basketball in the winter. She plays golf, too, but said she cannot pick which sport is her favorite.

"I just love all sports," she said. "I honestly don't have a favorite."

Lucas said she keeps in touch with her former teammate, Merckle. Her remaining time in high school is about carving a new set of achievements.

"[Lucas] is a team player," Maxin said. "She's going to do whatever it takes for the team to succeed."

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