Last year at the PIAA state championships, both Tamaqua's Christine Streisel and Lehighton's Jon Strauss were able to come home with medals in the javelin. Little did they know that their throws would earn them another reward down the road.
Along with leading them to the medal stand, Streisel, who won gold in the AA class with a throw of 143-11, and Strauss, who tied for fifth in AAA with a toss of 186-1, later found out that their performances would lead somewhere else. That place was Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
The National Scholastic Sports Foundation announced plans last July to host "Project Klutan Keihas" ('Golden Javelin' in Finnish), which was an elite javelin clinic. The NSSF decided to take six of the country's best high school javelin throwers to Jeff Gorski's "Field of Dreams" training facilities for three development sessions aimed at competing on the world's stage. Thanks to their great showing at states, Streisel and Strauss were selected as two of the participants.
"The good thing about javelin is that the numbers don't lie," said Barry Krammes, a Pottsville native who now coaches at East Stroudsburg South and has offered his time and advice to Streisel and Strauss over the last year. "It came down to who had thrown the farthest. The camp was looking for sophomores and juniors. A lot of the other kids who placed higher were seniors.
"Jon had one of the top throws as a junior, and I think Christine had the third best throw in the whole country. That, along with both of them having good grades, got them selected to attend this camp."
Six of the top returning boy and girl high school javelin throwers were invited to train in Gorski's program from Oct. 20-23. The program's goal is to identify emerging, elite junior javelin throwers and provide them with the best technical and training methods available. The athletes got to work with Gorski, who was a 1981 U.S. National Team member and a three-time All-ACC performer at UNC in the 1970s. They also worked with 1972 Olympic bronze medalist Bill Schmidt and learned techniques from Finnish national coach Kari Ihalainen.
Krammes was a two-time All-American at East Stroudsburg University and nearly made the U.S. team in 2008. He, along with Tamaqua javelin coach John Kotchmar, had a helping hand in getting Streisel selected. The two met roughly three years ago out at states and aided in Allison Updike's success.
Krammes also met a young Streisel at the time and has since worked with her over the years. The two had connections with Gorski and were able to get Streisel invited.
"Coach Kotchmar came over one day and told me about a camp I should go to," recalled Streisel. "I didn't think much of it until I found out that only six people were invited. I was really shocked and surprised.
"John is a great coach who dedicates a lot of time and isn't afraid to talk to other people to figure things out. Barry loves working with us and knows a lot about the sport.
"The camp pretty much reassured me of everything they were teaching me. They have been crucial to my success."
While looking for javelin camps last year, Strauss came across a rather prestigious one that was being held by Gorski in Denver, Pa. The two got to know each other and stayed in touch over the last few months. Strauss also met Krammes at the camp and asked for his tutelage. The two have been working together for almost a year.
Then, two months ago, Strauss received a camp invite from Gorski.
"I got an email from Jeff asking me if I was interested in a camp," said Strauss. "At the time I didn't think I could afford all of the expenses that go along with attending a camp far away. After I told Jeff the situation, he said that he was thinking about funding my trip.
"I jumped on the opportunity. It was a chance of a lifetime. The camp was great and offered a lot of help with technique. I threw when I got home and saw huge results. I really appreciate everything Jeff did for me."
As part of the deal, the six athletes will be going to another camp next August in Finland. Whereas everybody knows the names of football and basketball players in the U.S., the Fins know the names of their javelin throwers. That is how big the sport is in their country.
Thanks to the help of Gorski's camp, Kotchmar and Krammes, Streisel and Strauss have yet again set their goals high for the upcoming track and field season.
"My goals will be the same as last year," said Streisel. "I want to stay consistent and improve. I feel rededicated because of this camp. It's nice to know that a lot of people believe in me. I think it will give me that extra push every day in practice."
"I have set my goals high," added Strauss. "I want to ultimately break the AAA state record. I would at least like to be in the 215-220 range, but ideally I'd like to beat 232."