The senior, who was fifth in the javelin at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions last year with a 186-6, has already unloaded a school record 197 in a dual meet and followed that up with a 188-2 at the Bergen County Relays last week to take the state lead.
NJ MileSplit caught up with the 6-2, 200 pound Santa Cruz for a Q and A about his goals, his training, how he got involved in track and field, and his future plans.
Hey Jason, you've wasted no time taking the state lead in the javelin this season, with your 188-2 at the Bergen County Relays and a 197 and change in a dual meet last week. What are your thoughts on the way you have started your season? You must be pretty happy with the results so far?
A: I am extremely happy about how the season started, especially my PR of 197 at home. I will be trying to improve at every meet.
Your 197 is more than a 10 foot PR from your best last year, so I'm curious what you've done between last season and this season to gain that extra distance? Is it form/technique, strength training? Can you breakdown what's enabled you to get close to 200 already this season?
A: What I changed this year,was working more on my form and technique. I also worked on speed and agility with my personal trainer. I have also started to rock climb a little at a gym I work at.
Can you describe what your biggest goals are for this season? Obviously, going over the 200 foot barrier must be a huge target for you, and I imagine winning Meet of Champions has to be something you have your sights on?
A: I came into this season with the goal of breaking 190 and now that I have done that, I am now even more determined to throw over 200. Winning the Meet of Champions would be amazing but I'm just focusing on the next meet.
What would it mean to you to win the javelin at Meet of Champions? It's obviously every track and field athletes dream.
A: You're right, winning the Meet of Champions is every track and field athletes dream and it would be a great finish to my high school javelin career. When I was there for the past 2 years, I witnessed first hand how many great javelin throwers there are in NJ so just getting to compete there is my goal again this year.
Tell me about your off season training? I know you played football in the past. What kind of drills do you do?
A: I stopped playing football after sophomore year, which gave me more time to focus on javelin. I worked with my club team in the off-season. I just keep it simple working on my run-ups and crossovers. During this preseason I worked on my flexibility.
How about during the winter? What type of training do you do to prepare for throwing the javelin?
A: In the winter, it's all about hitting the gym working on strength and conditioning.
Lots of throwers have a personal coach/trainer, an expert in the javelin that they go to in order to improve. How about you? Do you have a personal coach/trainer that you get instruction from? If so, who do you go to, when did to start going to them, and how much of a difference has it made for you?
A: I am part of an awesome track club team UATC (United Athletes Track Club). I work with Coaches (Anthony) Scannella, 9Marc) Pecl, and (Joe) Lee during the off- season since sophomore year. I also have a strength and conditioning trainer I work with in the winter and preseason.
Who is your throwing coach at Old Tappan and tells me how they've helped you improve each season, and how they have motivated you to become the top thrower in the state?
A: My throwing coach's name in Joseph Clause he is also a football coach at my high school. He is the type of coach who always has your back through thick and thin. He has always pushed me to be the best I can be and more. He always has a workout or drills ready 5 days in advance. Coach Clause is also a very straightforward coach. If someone messes up, he will tell them when and how they messed up. But then he will just get to work and help the athlete fix the mistakes to become better.
Can you turn back the clock for me and tell me how you got involved in track and field? And how did you get started with the javelin? Did you give up another sport to try it? Did someone talk you into trying it?
A: It's actually a funny story. It was the summer going into freshman year and I was home just sitting on the couch minding my own business when my mom walked into the room and said "Get your stuff ready because tomorrow you are going to Northern Valley Old Tappan Track and Field camp". Like every other kid in the summer I didn't want to go to track camp, I just wanted to hang out with my friends because I had my heart set on playing Lacrosse freshman year but I went. The first day was fine until we got to the javelin station where stuff got exciting. The first time I picked it up I just chucked it and the coach was very impressed. He gave me another javelin and said throw it again so that is exactly what I did and it went farther than the first throw. For the rest of he week, they had me throw javelin. After camp, my football coach told me I was doing track so I gave up Lacrosse and started to work on javelin. So I have to give all the credit to my mom.
I can only find one meet that you threw the javelin as a freshman-a 136-2 in the Season Opener on the first weekend of the season. What happened with the rest of your freshman season? Did you suffer an injury, if so what was it?
A: Freshman year started off great with a nice PR but then I fractured my clavicle playing football with friends.
Tell me about your breakthrough moment with the javelin. When did you have that big throw, that big PR that made you tell yourself that you could be one of the top throwers in the state? I'm guessing it came soph year when hit a 177-3, a PR by 40 feet from your freshman year?
A: You are right, after that big PR and beating a lot of the juniors and seniors when I was a sophomore. I just thought to myself this is great but there is a lot more work a head and that just made me hungry to be one of the best in the state and work harder.
What do you enjoy the most about throwing the javelin, and what do you consider your biggest strength as a thrower?
A: What I enjoy most about throwing the javelin is the feeling I get when everything falls into place and the javelin flies out of my hand.I feel like my biggest strength is my determination.
What are your future plans? Have you signed with a college yet? If so, why did you feel that school would be the best fit for you?
A: I have committed to Monmouth University to throw javelin. I love the campus and the facility. They also have a great Homeland Security degree. One of the things that impressed me the most about Monmouth University when I went on my official visit was how the team treated each other. They are determined to be the best and make everyone on the team do their best.
Where are you throwing this weekend?
A:I have a dual meet Monday against Ramapo, but my next big relay is Penn Relays.