Led by a strong core of new throwers, the Andover Boys Track & Field Javelin unit has quickly emerged as one of the team’s most consistent sources of point contributions and first-place finishes. New throwers Michael McGreal ’17 and Alex Apgar ’17 and one-year veteran Ajay Menon ’17 head a Javelin squad that has not lost a regular season competition this year.
Ralph Skinner ’16, who has emerged as a leader for Andover’s track program, said, “The success of Boys Javelin has been one of the most surprising contributions to the team so far this season. The Javelin team has earned a lot of respect.”
Before throwing for Andover, not a single one of Andover’s Javelin standouts had ever competed in the event before.
Head Coach Richard Gorham ’86 wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “I have been coaching Jav at Andover for about ten years. I have developed a specific model for teaching new throwers — it takes about 3 to 5 practices to get the basics, then you can spend a lifetime refining the art.”
McGreal and Apgar are both new to the sport and were grateful for the instruction they received from Gorham. McGreal placed first overall against Taft and Deerfield with a throw of 159 feet, and Apgar threw 139 feet and 5 inches during the Hunt Relays at Deerfield.
McGreal said, “[The early success] is exciting, especially because I’ve been doing Javelin for less than a month, so there is nothing I can really do more than keep practicing and trying to master the technique and just get better. The coaches are good. Coach Gorham is a great coach – he’s taught me a lot. He taught me, from scratch, how to throw the Javelin. I came in, I didn’t know how to hold it, I didn’t even know what a Javelin looked like.”
“My house counselor, Mr. Gorham, just happens to be the Javelin coach,” said Apgar. “[Mike and I] had both tried Baseball as freshmen, and Mike played his Lower year as well. I played Golf last year, but we just wanted to expand our athletic horizon and try something new, and Javelin came across our sightline, so we pursued that – and so far, so good.”
Menon has been another source of Javelin knowledge for the new throwers.
Apgar said, “I would say having Ajay’s experience and knowledge to guide me as a one-year veteran has definitely helped [McGreal and my] cause.”
McGreal also noted the significance of Menon’s presence. He said, “Just watching [Ajay], he’s a huge help. I think I’ve learned a little bit from him, just by watching him; he’s really good at throwing, obviously. Having a guy like that around is pretty helpful, whether it be for form or motivation, or friendly competition for throwing.
Menon, who threw 146 feet at the Hunt Relays, noted the seemingly-natural ability of Apgar and McGreal in Javelin and attributed their prior baseball experience as a positive influence.
“[I started Javelin] last spring,” said Menon. “Our two other best throwers right now, this was their first year. I feel like it’s one of those events that you can naturally pick up if you’ve been throwing your whole life, and we all played baseball… my favorite part of baseball was just always throwing… Javelin kind of mirrored the motion of a baseball to me.”
One of the Javelin team’s strongest points, however, is not the distance of its throws, but the strong team chemistry that has manifested itself in practices and at competitions.
“My favorite part about Javelin is just the team atmosphere we’ve got,” said Apgar. “We have just a great group of people. I would say the highlight is every Friday we Jav for candy, which is a little team bonding competition. We split up into two groups and throw Javelins into hula-hoops 20 feet away; the winning team gets candy so it’s a little ulterior motivation to drive everyone to be better.”
Despite the hard work that McGreal, Apgar, and Menon demonstrate, only two throwers can participate in Interschols, a long-term goal which represents the culmination of a season’s worth of training.
“Unfortunately, we can only take two kids to Interschols,” said Menon. “It’s too bad because all three of us seem to really like the event and we’re all doing pretty well this year. But hopefully we can place two kids in the top six, which scores in Interschols. And the team is looking really strong this year, so hopefully we can contribute to that at Interschols.”
Whether or not the three of them can all compete in Interschols, Javelin has been a rewarding experience for each member of the team. “It’s one of those events where hard work really translates,” said Menon. “So it’s something where you’ll get as much out of it as you put in.”