New Oxford's Madi Smith, last year's state runner-up in the javelin throw, discusses her technique heading into her junior year. Zach Miller - GameTimePA.com
Madi Smith and the javelin throw were a perfect match right from the start.
New Oxford throws coach Steve Brown clearly remembers her first throw in a practice not much more than a year ago.
"Madi what do you think of the javelin?" Brown asked her a short while later.
"I like the javelin," she responded
"Madi," he said, "the javelin likes you.’
How right he was. In a matter of months, Smith went from first-time javelin thrower to New Oxford school record-holder, YAIAA and District 3 medalist, and PIAA runner-up in Class AAA. Now a junior for the Colonials, Smith looks to build on those accomplishments this spring.
“If you have experience coaching javelin and somebody throws a javelin (for the first time), you can just naturally see if it’s a good event for them or not," Brown said. "From the first throw with Madi, we could tell it was a good event for her.”
While Smith didn't pick up a javelin until last spring, her experience playing outside hitter in volleyball, swimming and playing catcher in softball likely laid the foundation for her success in the sport. The motion of launching a javelin into the air bears a striking resemblance to the motions a volleyball player uses to spike a ball, a swimmer uses in the freestyle stroke and a catcher uses to whip a ball down to second base.
When Smith decided to give up softball and give track and field a shot last spring, she threw a distance of more than 92 feet at her first dual meet. It surprised her to learn that few of her teammates and competitors could reach the same length.
She broke the Colonials school record a few weeks later with a throw of 117-11 to win the Susquehanna High School Classic.
“I still have so much to learn," Smith said. "Kids at practice will ask me, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ And I’m like, ‘I really don’t know just by looking at you, you’re gonna have to ask the coach because I honestly just don’t know.’”
Smith threw a distance of 125-1 at Tuesday's season-opening dual meet against Dallastown, which already puts her above District 3's postseason qualifying guidelines. Her personal best and new school record, which she set as she earned a silver medal at last year's state finals, is 135-2. She hopes to reach 145 feet by the end of this season.
She also hopes to reach a distance of 115 feet in the discus, which would put her above District 3's postseason qualifying guidelines in that event. She won the event at Tuesday's dual meet with a throw of 106-5.
As for whether she can improve on her placements at last year's postseason finishes in the javelin — third in the YAIAA, fifth in the district and second in the state — Smith said she tries not to think about it.
“It’s definitely stressful because I feel like everyone expects something higher or expects me to throw this far or that far," she said. "I’m trying to not think about that because that was last year and this year is different.”
She likely won't catch up to Connellsville's Madison Wiltrout, the defending PIAA Class AAA champion who is also a junior, who shattered the state record with a throw of 182-8 last year.
“You start at zero every year," Brown said. "She’s got a great work ethic, she’s got a great attitude. The sky’s the limit for her, she just has to keep working at it.”