Photo Credit: Grand Forks Herald
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The AAU Junior Olympic Games are almost here ... and we just can't wait.
Over the next few weeks, we are planning to bring you a variety of new information on the event, crazy race videos from year's past, commentary and more.
We'll also make sure to capture some player profiles and list some of the Games' best talent in 2020. First up are the throws, where we highlight seven of the most intriguing -- and top -- athletes headed to Florida.
Check below to find out all the information.
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Blue Thunder Track Club, MO
12 years old, Discus/Shot Put
Description: Cantwell is still young enough where there aren't many expectations on him, other than to win his events in his age bracket. And going into the AAU Junior Olympics, that's more true than ever: He's seeded nine and 10-feet ahead of his competitors, respectively, in the discus and shot put.
But as we've seen over the years, there's a certain amount of talent that Cantwell has just been naturally given by virtue of his bloodlines. Both his parents, Teri and Christian, were Olympians, and that expertise has rubbed off in various ways on Cantwell -- who at an early age began to throw, just like his parents.
Watching a young athlete like Cantwell gives you hope that he can follow in those footsteps.
While he won't do it immediately, he'll eventually find his own path in his sport and begin to form his own identity beyond the famous family he has grown up in.
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Boyd Anderson High School, FL
Class of 2020, Boys 17-18 Discus/Shot Put
Description: Jackson was very much hoping for a big breakout season after transferring to Boyd Anderson from St. Jago High School this past year. But when COVID-19 erased the season, Jackson was forced to train differently.
Still, Jackson certainly has the potential to capitalize on some very big throws. In January, his first competition of the season saw him hit 56.24 meters, a mark equating to a throw of 184 feet, 6 inches. Jackson went on to score seven more competitions before the season shut down, hitting three more marks over 51 meters.
While a lack of competition could test any athlete's sharpness, Jackson will be placed in a unique opportunity and will have the talent to score some big marks. He enters with the second farthest throw in the boys 17-18 division discus, just behind Josiah Harry.
And with colleges potentially watching the Jamaican athlete, Jackson may even help elevate his stock at the AAU Junior Olympic Games.
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Farmington High School, MI
Class of 2021, Girls 17-18 Discus, Shot Put
Description: Pallett had a big summer season in 2019, racking up AAU Junior Olympic Games wins in the discus and shot put, and finishing sixth in the javelin. Most impressive, however, was the fact that she scored a winning throw of 42 feet, 7 inches in the shot put when the moment asked of it -- in her previous four competitions, she had failed to break 40 feet.
But Pallett is moving up to the 17-18 age bracket, and therefore the competition won't offer any freebies. And in the discus, especially, the Michiganer will face up against a force in Shelby Frank -- who's hoping to break 170 feet.
However, in the shot put, where Pallett owns a personal best of 50-3.5, she's seeded as the favorite.
4. Mason Hickel
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Phoenix Desert Vista, AZ
Class of 2021, Boys 17-18 Discus/Shot Put
Description: There are a few two-way throwers scheduled to compete at the AAU Junior Olympic Games with the potential to win either the shot put or discus -- or both -- and it would be smart to name them all: Josiah Harry (more on him later), Hickel, Jackson, Zane Forist and Cooper Mack, among others.
But Hickel could be the sneaky pick to score a win in at least one. One big reason is because he's fresh off a solid performance at the Desert Dream Last Hurrah Invitational.
The Phoenix Desert Vista rising senior -- who only recently broke 150 in the discus and added six feet to this shot put this spring and summer alone -- won the hammer with a mark of 162 feet, was fourth in the shot put with a throw of 59-9 and was sixth in the discus in 148-10. Consider that his top shot put mark in 2019 was 53-0.
His shot put mark specifically puts him in the No. 2 position in that event, only behind Harry. If Hickel can match Harry, he has the potential to go over 60.
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LC Express, TX
Class of 2023, Girls 15-16 Discus/Shot Put
Description: Weiser has won three-straight shot put titles in her age division. But things are, at the very least, getting more competitive for the Texan. She's in the 15-16 category for the first time.
Weiser will be searching for that special sauce from 2019, when she found the right moves to score two 50-foot throws in consecutive weeks at the AAU Region 19 and AAU National Championship meets. Weiser would go on to win her age bracket at the AAU JUnior Olympic Game sin 47-4.
Since then, Weiser competed this indoor season and scored a season best mark fo 44-6.75. But Weiser will be hoping for more come August, when she faces up agains four girls who have all gone over 40 feet in the shot put.
Weiser is also entered in the discus and is seeded third.
2. Josiah Harry
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Mobile Christian High School, AL
Class of 2020, Boys 17-18 Discus/Shot Put
Description: Harry enters as the favorite in both his events, and it's a position he probably doesn't mind.
The Alabama-based standout, who's headed off to the University of Alabama in the fall, won five state outdoor track and field championships over his abbreviated tenure -- because of COVID-19 in 2020 -- and has the potential to pop off some truly impressive performances.
Chief among them is in the shot put, where Harry is coming off an effort of 60 feet, 1 inch in June -- a small throwers meet at Mobile Christian -- and previously a personal record of 64-1.25 from March. That mark currently puts him at US No. 2.
Back in 2018, Harry also won the Emerging Elite shot put section at New Balance Nationals Outdoor, hitting a mark of 57-10.25, and was fourth in the championship section of the discus, throwing a personal record of 194-3.
An injury sidelined his hopes for his junior season -- though he still did win state titles -- though Harry is back into form and has one more meet to show off just how much quarantine power he added in the circle.
1. Shelby Frank
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Red River High School, Ragnarok Athletic Club, ND
Class of 2020, Girls 17-18 Discus
Description: The University of Minnesota recruit wasn't afforded a season in 2020.
But there's always one last opportunity to make a statement. And Frank, the defending New Balance Nationals Outdoor champion in the girls discus, could very well hit that mark at the AAU Junior Olympic Games.
The talented thrower, who finished her career at Grand Forks Red River High School with five state titles, including three straight discus honors beginning in her freshman season in 2017, has thrown a best of 169-1 in the discus and 42-7 in the shot put. She finished the 2019 outdoor season with the third-best discus mark in the country.
Frank's strength is her precision and speed in the circle, which is one reason why the discus flies off her hands with an immense amoutn of power. But just how far can she go? Since 2000, less than 50 girls all-time have thrown over 170 feet in the discus.
And there's always this, too: The North Dakota state record of 179-1 was achieved by Briona Reynolds in 1999 ...which, unfortunately in Frank's case, also happens to be a Red River school record as well.
If Frank, a three-time North Dakota track and field athlete of the year, could accomplish that honor, she would enter elite company .. and at least get a school record.
"For a while, it was the same thing over and over again," Frank told the Grand Forks Herald in June. "But the past two weeks, I feel I've hit that point where I'm hitting a groove and now it's starting to come together."