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I wrote last month about how the career of legedary hammer thrower Harold Connolly coincided with the modernization of the sport. While progress slowed after he retired from throwing, he worked for another four decades to keep the momentum moving forward. Even now, three years after his death, his legacy is continuing that push via the successful USATF Foundation Harold Connolly Youth Hammer Throw Grants program he started back in 2005.
Since its inception, these grants have distributed over $32,000 to help cover specified training and competition expenses for 65 of the most promising youth hammer throwers in America. Looking back, these athletes have had some great success, especially over the past year. The success is first and foremost due to the hard work and dedication of each athlete over the past year, the goal of these grants is also to motivate and support these athletes and I think the amount of success by this group shows that this is working in that regard too.
Last year featured grants to 13 athletes from 9 different states. Nearly every grant winner had a breakthrough year, such as Charlie Ionata (Barrington, RI) who improved to number two in the nation. Chase Carroll (Acworth, GA) and Sean Ryan (Babylon, NY) also improved more than 30 feet to become among the best high school throwers in the nation. The girl’s recipients also represented a hard working group. Among them Kelli Thomas (Locust Grove, GA) and Danielle Boriello (Ellenville, NY) both improved more than 25 feet. On average last years recipients improved 24-feet 2-inches on the boys side and 20-feet 5-inches on the girls side. The other grant winners performed just as well and also strong this year were throwers that had received the awards in prior years. Nyla Woods and Colin Minor, recipients two years ago, went on to compete at the IAAF World Youth Championships in July with Minor making the finals. Both national leaders in 2013, Rudy Winkler (Averill Park, NY) and Sabrina Gaitan (Kennesaw, GA), were also past recipients of a grant.
While applications have been growing we always want more so that we can assure the most qualified athletes are receiving grants. The new 2013 application was released this week and youth throwers have until the end of November to submit their application. The requirements to apply are simple: athletes must simply be American hammer throwers born in 1996 or later. We take a variety of factors into our decision which look not just at an athlete’s personal best, but also their progression, motivation, support network and various other elements. As with last year, we have put together a simple online tool to submit the application, meaning there is no excuse for an eligible athlete not to fill it out. Please help spread the word to any youth coaches or throwers you know.