Raider javelin duo off to strong start
Steve Shinko/Special to THE TIMES NEWS Tamaqua Area High School Javelin standouts Christine Streisel (left) and Allison Updike have put up some nice distances in competition thus far this season.
Allison Updike is hoping that her early season performance is a harbinger of even better things to come.
The Tamaqua junior is a two-time PIAA State medalist in the javelin, and her numbers so far have surpassed what she has accomplished in her previous seasons.
Not only is Updike setting new javelin standards, she has been a mentor for freshman Christine Streisel, whose rapid development could push Updike to even greater distances.
That is a bit of role reversal for Updike, who as a freshman was an understudy to Casey Wagner, who is currently throwing the javelin at the University of South Florida.
During the 2008 season, Wagner finished second in the Class AA javelin at the PIAA State championships, throwing 146 feet, three inches to earn the silver medal. That was just under what was Wagner's personal best of 146-5. That benchmark stood as the all-time TIMES NEWS girls record for the event. Meanwhile, Updike finished fourth at 136-2.
Last year, as a sophomore, Updike spent the early part of the spring recovering from a knee injury that has sidelined her during basketball season. She ended up placing seventh at States with a heave of 125-11.
So far this spring, Updike has placed first at the Palisades and Shippensburg Invitationals. In three home dual meets, she has been averaging over 140 feet, including breaking Wagner's school and area records with a toss of 147 feet on April 12.
"It was amazing," said Updike of her record-setting effort. "I love Casey to death, and she found out about it about 10 seconds after I threw it. She helped me a lot when I was a freshman. It was good to get that off of my back.
"I think I am in a good position right now, because when I look back at what I was throwing at the beginning of other seasons, I was throwing about 20 feet less than what I ended up throwing at the end of the season. Since I'm in the 140's now, I expect to do better, but I'm not sure how much better, since 140 is already a good distance."
There are several factors playing into Updike's strong start. One is that she is healthy from the start. "I have no brace now, and I feel pretty confident in my knees," she related.
Tamaqua also installed a synthetic, all-weather track over the summer, and that includes the javelin runway, which now has much better footing. "It's a lot better surface than we had last year," Updike noted. "With this all-weather track, it's just like throwing at any of the other big meets we are at."
The Raider javelin throwers also have the assistance of volunteer coach John Kotchmar, a former Tamaqua standout.
"Christine and I do a lot of personal training with him, and he has a lot of experience and insight into throwing the javelin, and he's good at teaching it," remarked Updike.
"John does a wonderful job with them," said Tamaqua head coach Tom Kanger. "Allison hasn't thrown poorly yet this season, and his second thrower is doing great, too, so that's proof that he knows what he's doing, because he's winning with the talent."
Updike is also not just a one-trick pony this season, as she has added the shot put (her top throw of 35-7 is tops in the TN area) and is dabbling in the high jump.
Then there's a friendly rivarly with Christine. "I can't let my guard down, because I have Christine knocking at my door," said Updike. "I give her a lot of encouragement and I'm happy she's throwing well."
Christine had been throwing over the State qualifying standard of 121 feet, then she hit a personal best of 130 feet to finish second to Updike at Shippensburg.
"I played baseball for eight years, just like Casey did, so I figured if she could get a full ride scholarship throwing the javelin, maybe I could, too, if I get good enough," explained Christine. "I was happy when I hit 100 feet in my first meet, and I'm proud to be throwing State qualifying.
"Allie and I keep pushing each other. She helps me a lot and teaches me things, so I just go out there and try to do well."
Updike will be competing at the Penn Relays on Thursday, as will Wagner with USF. Also at Penn will be Lakeview's Fawn Miller, the two-time State AA javelin champ. "I'm really excited about going down there, but I'm nervous at the same time," Allison remarked. "I know a lot of college coaches are going to be there."
On Friday, Allison and Christine will compete at the Mount Carmel Invitational, while Christine's sister Maria could be throwing the javelin at the Olympian Invitational at Jim Thorpe, according to Kanger.
Allison said she has her goals for this season, but she will have to accomplish them before she'll reveal them. "I have a number, but I'm keeping it to myself," she stated with a smile.
The Colonial League has some key meets on tap this week.
On the boys side, Bangor and Wilson are both 6-0, followed by Northwestern at 4-1. The Warriors handed the Tigers their lone loss of the season last week. The Slaters will host Wilson and Northern Lehigh this afternoon.
The girls race is even tighter, with four teams with one loss each. Palmerton and Bangor are tied at 5-1, followed by Saucon Valley and Northwestern at 4-1. The Blue Bombers visit Saucon Valley on Thursday. Depending on how things shake out, Bangor will host Palmerton and Northwestern on May 4 in another meet that could affect the standings.
RECORDS WATCH - In addition to Updike's area record in the javelin, Palmerton's Lanny Buck tied the all-time record in the pole vault when he cleared 15 feet on April 4. Northwestern's Noah Billig first cleared that height in 2008.
Lehighton's Vanessa Rimbey was clocked at 14.64 in the 100 meter hurdles last week. That would lower her previous area record of 15.1.
In future columns we hope to have an up-to-date listing of school records that have been broken this season. Coaches are reminded to indicate new records when they submit their meet results.