Hen Hud Javelinists Look to Throw Far0
When the race walk, the javelin throw and the hammer throw were returned as scoring events for the county track and field meet this season, the first thought was it would be a big difference-maker for Somers. After all, in Maria Gorecki (the certain county favorite), Kristi Licursi and Allie Shaw, the Tusker girls have three of the area’s very best race walkers; the change should add some incentive to their All-America bids.
But the inclusion is a huge plus also for Marsha Bailey’s Hen Hud squad. It has, arguably, the county’s two best javelin throwers in juniors Jack O’Brien and Michael Gabrielsen, two tall athletes who both qualified for national competition as sophomores.
With javelin a non-scoring event, the Sailors would likely settle for a middle-of-the-pack county showing with senior sprinter-high jumper Brad Barthelmes leading the way in the B competition. But with the javelin registering in the team totals, Bailey’s team can certainly aim higher.
“I expect Jack and Mike to be 1-2 in our league and they could well score just as well at the county competition,” Bailey said.
Both boys, best friends since the first grade, started track in their freshman year, partly to stay in shape for football. Bailey, as is her wont, tried her new athletes on whatever might conceivably suit them and both big, strong youngsters showed promise in the javelin as well as other weight events.
“Jack is an outstanding all-around athlete who is working very hard to be a decathlete. He even ran cross-country well last fall,” said Bailey.
“My freshman year I had just moderate success at the javelin,” said the 6-2 O’Brien, who has always thrown several feet further than his good friend. “My sophomore year I broke out.”
He broke out to the tune of an eye-opening 174-foot, 11-inch personal best and a third-place finish in his phase of the nationals. “I thought,” he continued, “‘Hey, this is really something, something I can continue in college.'”
His goal is to go over 180 feet this season and hit the 200s as a senior. The 6-5 Gabrielsen also has a 180 goal but it’s a bit further away; he threw a 159’ll” personal best in this spring’s opening competition, beating O’Brien for the only time when his buddy had an off day and settled for 149’10”.
“We’ve been best friends so long which is why it’s so funny we’re in this together,” O’Brien said. “We’re understandably competitive.”
“At first I didn’t care for the javelin,” said Gabrielsen. “I didn’t do so well as a freshman. But as a sophomore I did pretty well and went to nationals. I’ve really worked hard this past off-season. And Jack has always been encouraging me.”
Gabrielsen too works at the discus, shot put and pole vault to help his team score and also participated in cross-country, but he isn’t focused on the decathlon. He’s more interested in improving his javelin distance, and the distance between him and O’Brien. “He is closing the gap,” Bailey said.
In their second spring competition, the Mount Relays in the Bronx on Saturday, April 6, Gabrielsen had to settle for second again. Competing at 9 a.m. in a brutal cold on an open field, O’Brien won the frigid competition with a toss of just 142’3″, three feet ahead of Gabrielsen in the 12-man field. “Winning is nice, but the distance wasn’t,” O’Brien said. “Boy, was it cold.”
O’Brien is hoping to continue his throwing at either West Point or the Air Force Academy. Gabrielsen hasn’t narrowed his college field yet, “but I’m looking for a school with a good medical program,” he said.
The county jnclusion is not, however, a complete victory for the supporters of race walking, the hammer throw and the javelin. They are still not accepted for the sectional and state meet (the race walk is indoors). So Bailey holds a special meet for the three events at the time of sectionals each May.
Meanwhile, Bailey, Somers coach Roy Arnesen and other Section 1 coaches are still fighting for full acceptance of the three events outdoors. And so is Jack O’Brien.
“I keep writing letters and writing letters,” the area’s top javelinist says, “but no one in paying any attention.”