Catelli leads WWU track and field into nationals

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 21, 2014 

Western Washington University thrower Frank Catelli admitted the arm mechanics he used throwing balls growing up are nothing like the ones he uses with the shot put and discus, but his freakish throwing ability led him to finding success in both track events he now excels in.

Catelli, a sophomore at WWU, was a quarterback at Sequim High and could throw a football 70 yards as a high school sophomore.

His throwing ability invited suggestions he should try throwing the javelin.

Catelli tried it, but four weeks in he tore an elbow tendon, which ultimately led him to the shot put and disc.

"(The injury) kind of paved the way," Catelli said in a phone interview.

Fast forward four years and Catelli has already become the best Viking to put the shot or throw the discus, earning school records in both. He is now looking to make a name for himself on the national stage as WWU competes in the NCAA Division II National Championships Thursday-Saturday, May 22-24, at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.

Catelli is one of eight athletes heading to nationals, but he is the only one who'll be competing in two events. Eight competitors matches the second most Western has qualified since the Vikings joined the NCAA in 1998.

Joining Catelli is javelin duo Bethany Drake and Katie Reichert, hammer thrower Lindsay Wells, sprinter Alex Donigan, steeplechase athlete Katelyn Steen and men's javelin throwers Slater Hirst and John Haskin.

"I think it is a very strong group," WWU track and field coach PeeWee Halsell said in a phone interview. "If they come through and we have a few surprises, I think we could do well. I think we got a good shot at finishing higher than we are ranked."

Halsell said he believes the women's team is capable of a top-10 finish and the men's team could go top 20, and obviously Catelli's performance will be a major factor in the men's success.

Catelli enters nationals ranked No. 5 in the shot put with a Great Northwest Athletic Conference overall and meet record of 59 feet, 7 inches. He is ranked No. 10 in the discus with a toss of 173-11.

His performance in the shot has been expected, he said, but the discus marks have come as a surprise.

"I worked a lot over the summer, gained 25 pounds this year and that translated over well," Catelli said. "Discus has been the biggest surprise. Coming in I've worked with (coach) Steven Ayers, and he's a good discus coach. I went from not even placing at GNAC to No. 10 in the nation."

Although this week's nationals will be Catelli's first outdoor championships, he's already competed in the indoor championships, where he placed 17th in the shot.

It was a disappointing end to the season, Catelli said, and he's looking to use what he learned at his first nationals meet to propel him to a better mark this time.

"It's going to be a tremendous amount of help in a lot of different ways," Catelli said. "All I had there was the running coach, and there were all these big-time guys who've won nationals in past years and stuff. I did really bad, honestly. I did terrible, so I'm trying to use (that experience) to do well, because I don't want to be in the same situation. I want to leave everything on the table."

Catelli has been more consistent in the shot this spring, and he believes he could go 60 feet and crack the top five. He described his discus throws as more "bi-polar," saying he could throw 150 on a bad day or be in contention to win with an 180-foot toss.

Women's javelin throwers Drake and Reichert may have the best chance to win an individual title, though.

Drake's 169-foot, 6-inch throw ranks No. 1 nationally and Reichert ranks No. 3. She's also coming of a win at the GNAC Championships.

Wells, a senior, is making her first trip to nationals despite being a provisional qualifier each of her four years at WWU. She's ranked No. 11 in the hammer with a school record of 182-4. She also won her third straight GNAC title two weeks ago.

Donigan enters the national meet ranked tied for 15th in the 100 meter with a WWU-best time of 10.49 seconds.

Steen placed 34th at cross country nationals last season and is ranked No. 5 in the 3,000 steeplechase with a school record and GNAC-winning time of 10:34.40.

Men's javelin throwers Hirst and Haskin are ranked sixth and 17th, respectively. Hirst's top throw is a 214-8, and Haskin's best is a 205-2.

Reach Andrew Lang at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.

2014 NCAA DIVISION II OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Where: Thursday-Saturday, May 22-24

Where: Grand Valley State University Track and Field Stadium in Allendale, Mich.

PARTICIPANTS

Athlete Event

Frank Catelli Men's shot put, discus

Bethany Drake Women's javelin

Alex Donigan Men's 100 meter

John Haskin Men's javelin

Slater Hirst Men's javelin

Katie Reichert Women's javelin

Katelyn Steen Women's steeplechase

Lindsay Wells Women's hammer

Reach ANDREW LANG at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call ext. 862.

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