The Javelin is All in the Family0
By Chuck Slater
The javelin is the stepchild of track and field. It is difficult — this spear one throws for distance and accuracy. It requires a lot of time and a lot of technique, and every now and then, an innocent athlete on a practice field has been impaled by an errant javelin toss. Plus, the javelin, when it is in a meet, is almost exclusively the province of male athletes.
Except of course for the Thomas sisters who compete and/or will compete for Spring Valley High School. And senior Yazmine Thomas, who breaks school and individual records virtually every time a javelin competition is available, may just be the best in the area with the stepchild spear.
It all started when Deborah Thomas saw that five of her daughters were interested in track and field, with an emphasis on the not-often-offered-for-girls field events. So she formed her own track club, In Motion, for her girls three years ago. “I started it for my girls,” she said, “and then I opened it up. Now I have twenty and a lot more inquiries, so it may grow. And, yes, the javelin is very much a part of it. I explain to the kids you have to know the risks involved,” she said. “And we start with the Turbo Javelin (a smaller, plastic version of the spear).”
Five Thomas girls throw the javelin as part of their track competition: Yazmine (17), Nieasia (16), Brianna (14), Tyaja (12) and Ayanie (10). “And my four-year-old granddaughter, Bria, already handles the javelin,” added Mrs. Thomas. “We haven’t had a javelin thrower in twenty years,” said Spring Valley athletic director Bill Pilla. “Isn’t that wonderful? And they are all great girls, too.”
“One of my jobs,” said track coach Andrew Delva,” is finding javelin competitions. Yazmine is one of the five best in the state.” The 5-foot, 10-inch Yazmine, who has committed to Manhattanville College from a host of academic and athletic scholarships, is the family’s javelin star — so far. At the recent Red Raider Relays, she stole the show and won with a school-record and personal-best javelin heave of 106 feet, 5 inches. She termed it a perfect throw, yet the following week in the Crusader Relays, she eclipsed her two records with a winning toss of 108.3. In both meets Nieasia was third with personal bests of 83-1 and 92.6. Brianna took sixth in the latter meet with 77-9 — at fourteen!
“It’s a rush when you get a good throw,” said Yazmine, who also throws the discus and shot and triple-jumps and wants to be a CPA. “Six years ago, my mom gave me a little javelin and told me to throw it. I just fell in love with it.” “It’s a competitive thing and a lot of fun,” Nieasia said. “I hope to do it in college, too.” Young Brianna also holds the school record of 36 feet 5 inches in the shot put. “I like the shot more,” she said, “but the javelin requires more technique and more practice.”
“Yazmine,” coach Delva says, “is a very committed and hard-working young lady. She’s also very quiet.” But her javelin exploits speak loudly.