Starr rising for Kiski Area track and field

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Friday, April 20, 2018 | 11:57 PM


Jean Starr took extra precautions Friday in the girls javelin competition at the 54th annual Butler Invitational at Butler High School.

Recent rain and snow made for a choppy and muddy approach, and the Kiski Area junior made sure to do what she could to get her best throw in the less-than-ideal conditions.

In the end, she was under her best this season, but she ended up in fourth overall (107 feet, 3 inches) out of 66 competitors.

“I don't want to stand here and say that I didn't perform to the best of my ability because of the conditions in the grass, but the runway was super choppy and muddy,” Starr said. “I was stopping a couple feet shorter than I normally do. But at the same time, everyone had to compete in the same conditions. It was just a matter of who could adjust the best.”

Mother Nature has made life miserable at times this spring for all track and field athletes and coaches. The frustration has been a little higher in the javelin as it's the only event in which a competitor makes a run or an attempt on a grass surface.

Practices and competitions have been an adventure for all of the javelin throwers.

“This is one of the worst seasons we've ever had,” Starr said. “It's usually cold in March and early April, but we've had so many days where we might go outside for a couple of minutes and then it's back inside. Or we didn't even go outside at all. Everyone tries to do what they can with their events, but there's only so much you can do inside.”

Good conditions or bad, Starr has proven to be one the top javelin throwers in the WPIAL this season. She announced her arrival, in a way, last week by winning the event at the Hempfield Lady Spartan Invitational with a season- and personal-best throw of 114-1.

A WPIAL medal, while also challenging for the championship, and a spot at states are major goals for Starr, who also throws the discus and shot put.

“I am so excited,” Starr said. “Discus was one of the main events I focused on the past couple of years. I didn't throw the javelin my freshman year, but this year, things have really taken off. I didn't have my best day (Friday), but I know I have more in me. I am really excited to see what's to come.”

In the latest girls javelin rankings for WPIAL Class AAA, Starr is ranked third. Elizabeth Forward junior Brianna Spirnak is first (149-0), and Baldwin senior Laurel Bristow is second (140-11).

Spirnak's throw ranks No. 17 on the WPIAL all-time list.

Cavaliers throwing coach Scott Newell said Starr can add another 6 to 10 feet to her distance by the time WPIALs roll around and get into the 120s.

“Jean has a ton of ability, and her confidence is growing every day,” Newell said. “She's grown 20 feet (in the javelin) from last year. The sky's the limit for her. The greatest thing is that she's a junior, and we get her back next year, too.”

Starr cited strength as a catalyst for her getting started in the throws when deciding what to do in track and field in seventh grade.

“I decided to go for it, and it's been working for me,” she said.

She competed in the discus at the Class AAA Central Qualifier as a freshman and placed 16th there with a season-best toss of 105-1.

Starr missed the WPIAL championships last year, and, she said, that motivated her to put in work in the offseason.

“We did a lot of indoor work with her from October to February,” Newell said. “The effort and work from her is there. She spent a lot of time lifting and getting stronger. She has really become a leader for the javelin as well as with all the throwers.”

In addition to winning the javelin at Hempfield, she was fourth in the shot put and seventh in the discus. She also placed seventh in the discus Friday with a personal best of 103-2.

Newell said Starr and the other throwers on the team look up to 2011 Kiski grad Felicia Reid, the school's record holder in the javelin.

Reid set the mark of 144-5 while winning the WPIAL Class AAA championship as a senior in 2011. She also finished as the state runner-up that year.

“Felicia was helping at Norwin last year, and when we would go to a lot of the invitationals, we enjoyed that she would offer some coaching and advice to the kids,” Newell said. “She's always loved Kiski and loved to interact with the kids.

“The 144 is a monster throw. Jean has a long way to go to get there in a year and a half, but if anyone can, it's her.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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