Tom Pukstys’ efforts to improve opportunities for U.S. throwers – especially in his old event, the javelin – have gone a lot further this year.
The little local throwing meet Pukstys began two years ago now has enough funding from USA Track and Field to attract entries from 11 members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team to Saturday’s Chicagoland Throwers Challenge at Benedictine University in Lisle.
That group is scheduled to include four-time Olympic discus thrower Aretha Thurmond and all three 2012 U.S. Olympians in the men’s discus and women’s hammer.
“We started with modest hopes to give local athletes a positive atmosphere to compete in during the summer months,” said Pukstys, the Stagg graduate who threw in two Olympics, won six U.S. titles and set U.S. records six times.
The Olympians’ presence this year led the National Scholastic Athletic Foundation to sponsor appearances by 32 top high school throwers from around the country – four boys and four girls in each of the four events. They will use high school implements while competing against the elite athletes.
Among the prep throwers are Grant’s Brandon Lombardino, headed for Arkansas State after winning last month’s Class 3A state title in the discus and taking third in the shot put, and Sandwich’s Ryan Njegovan, Class 2A discus champion.
The shot and javelin begin at noon, discus at 1 p.m. and hammer at 3 p.m. Admission is free.