Jenn Slagus – North Pocono HS
What was your most memorable race/competition?
My most memorable meet has to be when I won New Balance Outdoor Nationals 2013 in the hammer throw. Also seeing my friends do so well made the entire weekend perfect; friend and training partner Rudy Winkler won the men’s hammer throw; my good friend Braheme Days won the men’s shot put; while friend and training partner, Danielle Borriello, and I cheered each other on as we both made finals in the women’s hammer and had an amazing experience. I would not have changed that meet for anything.
Where did you face your biggest competition?
My biggest competition was definitely faced at Outdoors this year. Having to compete against the best girls in the entire country, coming in at US #2, and have a bad meet the week before made me really want to do well at Nationals. I really respect all the girls I threw against – they are tough competition and I look forward to seeing them all again in college!
Out of all of your high school accomplishments, which stands out the most?
Winning Nationals stands out as my most memorable accomplishment. When the final thrower finished and I knew she had not beaten my mark from the 5th round, I felt the biggest rush of emotions. I remember grabbing my dad, hugging him tighter than I ever had before and crying so hard from happiness that I could not breathe. I was completely awestruck to have accomplished something so amazing and sought-after. For minutes after winning, all I could say was, “I cannot believe it” and I just kept running the entire scene through my mind. That was one of the few times in my life that I was as happy as I could be and for years, every time I think about it, it will make me just as happy.
If you could do it all over again, what would you change about your athletic career in high school?
If I could change something about my high school career, I do not think I would. No matter how hard things got – throwing on ice beds and getting hammers stuck up in everything – it never changed the fact that training was hard to make me stronger and I have grown so much from it. High school went by way too fast.
What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?
My mind was always something to overcome, especially in meets. I used to get myself so worked up and anxious before a meet because I wanted to do well. Once I realized that if I just compete and do what is good for myself, not necessarily for someone else, things got so much easier. My height was also an obstacle early on. Being 5’4 with average discus throwers nearing 5’10, I needed to work even harder on my technique, speed, and balance to make my height not a negative factor.
What will you miss the most?
I know that I will definitely miss spending time with my dad the most. He has been the biggest influence throughout all of my years of training – from weightlifting at 10 years old to all my years of throwing discus and hammer. He has spent every moment coaching me to be a great thrower and a great person in life and I will miss being able to escape any problems and head to the circle with my dad. He is still coaching me via phone and video chats, but Pennsylvania and Tampa, Florida are far distances apart and I am already missing all our time together.
Do you have any advice for younger athletes?
I learned my best piece of advice very late in my high school career – at the Chicagoland Throwers Series, competing against Olympians and the other top girls nationally in the hammer throw – 1 week before the end of high school. Olympic Discus thrower Aretha Thurmond was competing with us and she was very relaxed, enjoying herself as she threw. I had never before done that. I remember her saying, “I’m here to have a party, I don’t know why you guys are here.” Seeing an Olympian be so calm in a meet and treat it as if it were a time to show off, not get nervous, really stuck with me. I took that advice to Nationals the next weekend and won without any self-created pressure. It was definitely one of the best ways anyone had taught me to look at competitions and I will forever tell that story to younger athletes.
How have your coaches influenced your performances and your life goals overall?
I have had many great coaches over the years – it takes a village to raise a child. My life-coach dad, discus coach Glenn Thompson, and hammer coach Paddy McGrath all taught me so much.
Earlier this year when Paddy told me, “You can be National champion,” I did not entirely believe his words, but I believed his work – so I did not quit. It showed me that if I give my all and I do work very hard at something, even if it seems outlandish, I could accomplish it.
Thank you to everyone who made me who I am today.
What are your college plans?
I am currently attending the University of South Florida to throw hammer/discus and continue my education in Theatre and Communications.
I want to give a huge shout out to my throwing crew at the New York Hammer Throw Squad and our coach Paddy McGrath. Also Coach Dad, my mom, all my brothers and family and especially I would like to wish some luck to the future state-and-national-champion hopefuls, my sister Jessica and brother Matthew – never quit.
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