A state champion last year as a freshman, Madison Wiltrout was a rising star in the javelin heading into 2015.
The Connellsville Area standout immediately began to improve on her best, adding a foot to her PR in the season's first scrimmage before breaking through the 160-foot barrier.
On Thursday, Wiltrout reached a loftier orbit than any high schooler ever has as the right-hander's lone throw at the WPIAL Class AAA Central qualifier covered a national record of 185 feet, 8 inches.
“It feels like you can't even imagine!" she said of being a national record setter. “All the hard work and time seems to pay off when you see your name by that record!"
In addition to erasing the old U.S. best of 181-2 by Oregon's Haley Crouser in 2012, Wiltrout obliterated her Pennsylvania record that stood for only 14 days. Her 168-5 to finish second at the Penn Relays on April 23 bettered the former state record by 15 inches.
“No, I really didn't have any clue that was coming from me today," Wiltrout said of her record high school throw that has been bettered by only five U.S. collegians or professionals thus far in 2015. “I was just hoping for consistent 160s today!"
With the ultimate goal of the meet at Norwin High School being a top eight finish to advance to the WPIAL championship next Thursday, record-setting marks are a rarity at the individual qualifiers. With 26 entered, Wiltrout threw last in the second of two flights as her former PR of 168-5 had more than 40 feet on the next best competitor's seed distance.
“I remember thinking, 'Well, it should be fun to see what Wiltrout will do today,' “ Kiski Area throws coach Scott Newell said of being assigned to officiate the girls' javelin. “When I walked down to the event, I saw Madison with her mom and coach. I joked with them, saying, 'What do you think, 180 today?'
“Her mom joked back, 'Thanks coach, now you jinxed her!' When we got to her flight, all eyes were on the young phenom as she took the runway."
Competing on a grass approach in very little wind, Wiltrout did not delay in guaranteeing herself a spot in the WPIAL final at Baldwin and the opportunity to earn a return trip to Shippensburg.
“I knew it was pretty far, but I didn't think another state record," said Wiltrout, who was 14th nationally in 2014 with her state-winning 151-1."My best throws usually aren't my first, so I guess that's why I didn't expect it!"
Since she set her first state record in Philadelphia, Wiltrout has thrown in the 160s. As happens many times with top performances, the first and only throw for the sophomore had a different sensation as she was able to “stick the plant harder" on the solid footing.
“That one felt effortless," she said. “I think that's another reason why I didn't think it was that good. I got it all together, and I felt nothing but a flick off my finger."
As his assignment included judging the foul board, Kiski Area's Newell did not see the flight of the javelin but knew it was a strong effort from spectator reaction.
“As we pulled through, I looked down (at the tape) and realized something special just happened," the coach said of Wiltrout's record effort. “I started to say 185 and the crowd erupted.
“Immediately, the other coaches and officials instructed us to leave the throw where it is and get the PIAA officials down here immediately. We found a metal tape, measured it four times and had the official sign off. It was a tremendous moment for this young athlete and an honor to be able to witness it!"
After celebrating her record throw along with nearby spectators, Wiltrout elected to scratch her remaining throws to avoid any risk of injury. The sophomore said she remains focused on the immediate tasks in front of her … and added in a new wrinkle.