Fort Cherry jav stand-out Jessie Merckle is a natural.
Fort Cherry track coach Ben Maxin admits he misjudged Jessie Merckle several years ago when he worked to place Merckle and other incoming freshman in events that best suited them.
Once the now multisport standout had a javelin in her hand, it didn’t take long for him to realize his mistake.
“She’s not the ideal build for a javelin thrower, which was one of the reasons I didn’t really try her out in it,” Maxin said of Merckle, now a 5-foot-3 senior. “She was one of our quicker girls, and she was one of our best jumpers.
Photo from 2011 PIAA State Champs by Charles Stone.
“But then I saw her pick up (a javelin) and throw it the first time. Just her release … I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone that releases it as fast and hard as she does. Whatever she lacks in height, and your prototypical build for a great javelin thrower, she makes up for it in her cannon of a release. Just how hard and fast she can throw.”
Based in her baseball background, Merckle’s release has developed and progressed into a rocket launcher. Her season-best throw of 151 feet on March 31 at the South Hills Classic is the No. 3 throw in the country.
“I used to play baseball so I do have an arm,” said the former pitcher/shortstop. “When I started out, it was just natural arm talent. Once I got the technique down, then it really started to fly.”
Merckle is looking to advance to her fourth consecutive Class AA state track meet, having placed 19th in the javelin as a freshman, ninth as a sophomore and second in 2011. Sending a 600-gram spear skyward isn’t the only track activity where Merckle excels – she also qualified for Shippensburg in the long jump a year ago.
“I don’t put all of my stress on javelin,” the Wake Forest signee said. “I have other events to worry about, so it’s nice having a different combination of events.
“I started out as a sprinter, and then I got into jumping. Halfway through my ninth-grade year, my friend showed me the javelin, and I was kind of just goofing around and it went like 30 feet. But my coach showed me the technique and then I got the hang of it. I didn’t expect to be a thrower at all.”
Late Start in 2012 Not A Problem
In addition to track and field, Merckle has starred on the basketball court. Starting and averaging almost 14 points per game, she helped the 2012 Fort Cherry girls basketball team advance to the PIAA Class A quarterfinals, pushing back her track debut.
“Track is my favorite sport, so I was eager to get back into it,” she said.
The late start doesn’t appear to have slowed her down. Merckle hit 145 and 146-8 before the 151-foot invitational winner.
“She has a great personality, and she’s very, very competitive,” Maxin said of Merckle, who is looking to PR in the 160s this season. “She tends to be very hard on herself if she doesn’t perform up to her expectations. Her enthusiasm for the sport and just being competitive in general makes track a perfect sport for her.”
Merckle reached 154-6 last summer at the USATF National Junior Olympic meet, finishing behind a national record setter. She is looking to PR in the 160s this season.
“We’ve worked on some things to make sure that, despite her size, she really focuses on keeping the jav as high as possible,” Maxin said. “She needs to keep it drawn back as far as she possibly can because she doesn’t get that extra 3, 4, 5 inches that some of the taller throwers get.”