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Familiar feeling brings success to Ben Cross

June 4, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

Ben Cross doesn’t throw baseballs anymore, as he did competitively for years on youth rep teams. When he picks up his new javelin these days, though, the feeling is familiar.

“It feels more like a baseball to me,” he says.

Perhaps, then, it shouldn’t be surprising that with a renewed comfort level has come a renewed level of success this high school season for the first-year senior thrower from Frontenac Secondary School.

Cross has stretched his performance this season, most recently hitting 50.68 metres at the East region meet, where he qualified for the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations track and field championship for the third year in a row.

It was no fluke. He’s been consistently throwing beyond or near 50 metres for the past two meets, regaining the form that led to the OFSAA silver medal as a midget two years ago.

It’s an interesting turn of fortune for Cross, who is throwing farther this year than he did in 2013, despite graduating to a heavier weapon — 800 grams, as opposed to the 600-gram spear competitors use through Grade 10.

“I like it better,” he said. “The weight is similar to a baseball.”

Perhaps the strength training Cross has undertaken makes it seem that way, since baseballs are mandated to weigh between five and five and a quarter ounces — or about 145 grams. Cross’s training routine takes him to Ottawa most Tuesdays to work with Ottawa Lions coach Bill Heikkila, the former national champion.

“I’ve started working out more, training with him more, and everything’s starting to click,” said Cross, who struggled last year to get comfortable. He didn’t exactly have a terrible year — he did, after all, finish fourth at OFSAA with a season-best throw — but two years and nine meets later he hadn’t matched the personal-best 51.53 metres he threw at the Kingston Area championship of 2012.

Now that he’s routinely throwing fifties, Cross is hopeful of moving up the pecking order in his first year of competing against older athletes.

His three-meet winning streak was snapped in Ottawa last Friday, when he was edged by just three centimetres, but he was nonetheless pleased with his performance.

“I got a hold of it all, my technique came in perfect,” he said. “Maybe if I’d kept my foot back a little bit more (I would have done better), but that’s about it.”

Cross, however, was not as happy with the long jump, where he finished seventh and did not qualify for OFSAA. “It wasn’t my best performance,” he sighed. “It wasn’t great. I’m pretty disappointed.”

As has been the case all season, Cross was doomed by his failure to stay on the take-off board. He faulted three to five times at every meet this year and couldn’t seem to resolve the matter. “It’s something,” he said, “I need to fix.”

Ultimately he did fix it Friday, just in time to grab the fourth and final qualifying berth in triple jump, though it almost got the best of him there, too. It’s not easy for an athlete to excel when he’s preoccupied with what he shouldn’t be doing, at the expense of concentrating on the things he should be doing.

“It got to me in the triple jump,” he said. “(I kept thinking), ‘I don’t want to fault, I don’t want to fault.’ Basically, that’s what was on my mind: ‘I don’t want to fault.’”

Perhaps no surprise, then, when that’s exactly what he did on his first two attempts. The end of his jumping season suddenly was one more miss away.

“I sat down, took a breather, moved my mark back a little bit to make sure I got it in,” Cross said. “At first I thought I’d faulted (again).”

It counted, however, and though it wasn’t a sparkling performance — 12.58 metres, 50 centimeters off his season best — it was good enough to get him through to this week’s provincial meet.

By that point, he said, the over-riding emotion was “relief,” and though he didn’t manage to extend that distance, he did legally complete his remaining jumps.

“I figured I might be able to do a little bit more with the other three but I didn’t manage to pull it off.”

Cross will contest both of his events on the first day of the 65th provincial high school championships, Thursday at St. Marcellinus Secondary School, where he will be one of 70 Kingston-area athletes competing at the three-day meet.

With almost 2,400 athletes, it’s known as the largest high school track and field meet in the world.

 

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