By CLAUDE SCILLEY
There’s a saying that’s sometimes heard around the throwing competitions at track and field meets: It just takes one. It’s usually reserved for struggling competitors, those who are not doing well, and need to be reassured that even a poor day can turn on one good attempt.
Without replication, however, that one sparkling throw can start to look like a fluke, and the lustre it held begins to fade. Those who are serious about the craft strive for consistency, and having found it, Ben Cross is a pretty happy fellow these days.
Cross, who easily won the senior boys javelin competition Wednesday on the first day of the Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association championships at Richardson Stadium, hasn’t had that singular, jaw-dropping throw this season.
For now, he’ll settle for having all of them be pretty darn good.
In three meets this season, Cross has won with throws of 51, 53 and, Wednesday, 52.99 metres. Not only have his winning performances been consistent, his throws within each competition have been between two or three metres of each other.
“It’s better knowing, having that range, that consistency within it,” said Cross, who has known both sides of the equation.
In Grade 9, he threw the 600-gram javelin 51.53 metres, smashing the Kingston Area record by almost 10 metres. Even though his season ended with a silver medal at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championship, he never got within four metres of replicating that performance.
He likes it this way better.
“It’s all about technique, getting that right block, everything, and when everything clicks, it just goes,” said Cross, whose winning throw Wednesday was more than five metres beyond what he was throwing at this time a year ago.
“So far it’s been a slow progression, but a nice progression. I’m hoping to peak at the right time.”
For Cross, the right time will be this summer, as he makes a bid for the Canadian team that will compete at the Pan American junior championships in Edmonton. To be get there, he needs to surpass 60 metres, and finish in the top two in the national junior championships in July.
Just to entertain that thought, Cross had to make some significant adjustments. The javelin got heavier (800 grams) and Cross could no longer rely on his innate ability and the arm strength he developed as a baseball pitcher. He had to re-learn the technical elements of throwing a spear with a different flex, and doing so with a longer approach run.
It wasn’t going to be easy.
“It was take one step back to take two steps forward,” he said. The result was a difficult Grade 10 season in 2013, one he now describes as “an ordeal,” even though it finished with a fourth-place performance as a junior at OFSAA.
Last season was better. Cross surpassed 50 metres at two meets during the high school season and he was fifth at OFSAA as a first-year senior. Than came a gold-medal performance at the national Legion championships, 55.14 metres.
Cross says some work he’s been doing at the Kingston Athletic Therapy Centre has been helpful.
“They’ve been helping me with my mobility, with my hips, especially," he said. "It's helped my overall power, and what I can do with my rotator cuff. As I got the extra flexibility, it allowed me to open up more. It’s greatly increased my distance, that’s for sure, and helped with the progress of my training.”
Cross’s victory Wednesday was one of two outstanding performances on the first day of the two-day KASSAA meet.
At the Caraco Field track, Brogan MacDougall ensured there’d be some interesting conversation around the dinner table when she broke her sister, Branna’s, record in the midget girls 1,500 metres.
Brogan stopped the clock in 4 minutes 50.3 seconds, not only winning by 36 seconds but taking two seconds off the county record her sister set in 2013.
Adam Burggraf of Bayridge won both of his events, junior boys javelin and discus. With the disc, Burggraf not only established a three-metre personal best at 43.26 metres, he had four throws that went farther than his best attempt in javelin.
As marvellous as those performances were, perhaps even more remarkable was the stunning achievement of Mackenzie Melim of Holy Cross.
A right-handed junior javelin thrower, Melim broke her right arm on Sunday. At practice on Tuesday she tried throwing left-handed and on Wednesday, the nouveau lefty finished fourth, with a best attempt of 17.84 metres, to qualify for the Eastern Ontario Secondary Schools Athletic Association next week.
Competition concludes at the Caraco facility Thursday, beginning at 9 a.m. with the steeplechase and ending with the 1,600-metre relays at 4 p.m. Athletes and relay teams that finish in the top four will qualify for the two-day EOSSAA meet, starting next Thursday in Brockville.