PHILADELPHIA — A strong wind at times worked in the favor of the high school javelin throwers at the Penn Relays. Other times those same tosses flew off course over the heads of the photographers who risked it all in the line of fire. While one could easily underestimate the strength of the breeze, to underestimate the competition would be a true folly.
Spring-Ford thrower Brandon Palaia knew better.
"Rankings don't mean anything until you get out there and throw,' Palaia said. "A lot of people PR'd, some people didn't. It's all about your throw then and there.'
Palaia's throw of 56.59m (185-7) was his best of the season. In just three years time since discovering the sport, the Rams senior has ambitions of taking his experience at the Penn Relays and expanding that success at districts and states.
"It was good, I was glad I made it out here and glad I got the experience,' Palaia said. "I think I'll be ready for the big stage.'
Taking the silver medal at the 2013 PIAA Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University, Palaia said it wasn't long ago that he made the transition to the javelin throw.
"This is my third year, my friends told me about it. I used to play baseball, so I just went out and tried it,' Palaia said. "I ended up progressively getting better as the season went on my first year and I just loved doing it.'
Denzel Pratt from St. Augustine's High School in Nassua, Bahamas, took the top spot on his final throw — an incredible toss of 67.24m (220-7), less than a meter off of the Penn Relay record of 68.05m set by Billy Stanley of South Park, Pa., in 2012. Pratt's throw came at a timely juncture to knock off the top American high school thrower, Curtis Thomas from Florence Township, N.J., who chucked 67.18m (220-4) on his fifth try.
Against those odds, Palaia was simply humbled to be ranked among them in the top dozen in the country.
"It was a great atmosphere, a lot of good competition,' Palaia said. "It was just a great experience to come here my senior year.'