UO-bound national leader to compete at junior championships

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Central Catholic High senior John Nizich wins the Class 6A javelin title at the state meet in Eugene, and hell return there to compete for the Oregon Ducks.John Nizich didn’t travel 2,800 miles for nothing.

The recent graduate of Central Catholic High got what he went to Greensboro, N.C., for two weeks ago.

The Class 6A javelin champion got his summer of throwing competition off to a stellar start, winning the New Balance national meet June 15 at North Carolina A&T.

Nizich captured the national crown with a heave of 222 feet, 3 inches.

“I was happy to come home a winner and also pleased with how I performed for my first time ever, really traveling to a meet outside of the Northwest,” says the 18-year-old,

who plans to compete starting next year for the University of Oregon.

“Whenever I win, it’s always great,” Nizich said.

And winning has become a habit for Nizich, who dominated the Oregon prep field in 2014.

At Greensboro, only five of the 23 throwers got past the 200-foot mark.

“Throwing over 200 feet separates the men from the boys,” Nizich says.

Nizich says the conditions at Greensboro were difficult at first because the runway “ran fast and I was struggling with simple things that I normally don’t struggle with, like my steps.”

Coming into the elite meet, Nizich was ranked No. 2 in the nation this season, with a PR of of 222-9. He trails only Mississippi State-bound Curtis Thompson (224-10), a native of Florence, N.J., who reached that distance on his final high school team throw and set a state record at the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Meet of Champions.

Thompson, a 6-0, 240-pound former star football player (he quit before his senior year to focus on the javelin), wound up third at Greensboro, tossing the spear 206-6.

Nicholas Solfanelli, of Dupont, Pa., was the runner-up at 214-5. He just completed his junior year of high school.

Nizich is set to enter the U.S. junior championships July 5-6 at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus.

“I feel like I have a big advantage, because I have competed there about eight or nine times,” says Nizich, who won the Oregon School Activities Association title there in May. “I almost have a little bit of a home-field advantage.”

He hopes to qualify for the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) World Juniors, also at Eugene, July 22-27. The “A” standard to compete in the world meet is 224-9.

“The goal going into any meet is to win, and the marks that I want to hit should come,” Nizich says. “I definitely want the top spot back, and I’m working very hard to obtain it.”

Nizich, 6-0, 200, is giving up 40 pounds to Thompson, but the New Jersey star says it’s more about technique when it comes to throwing the javelin.

“You could weigh 30 pounds, if your technique was great,” Thompson says, adding, “Don’t get me wrong, you need strength, too.”

Thompson says it was great meeting his top competitor in Greensboro. And he gave high praise and due credit to Nizich.

“He’s a pretty cool and good guy to compete and support,” says Thompson, who also received scholarships from Cornell, High Point, University of Pennsylvania and other schools and completed high school with a 3.7 cumulative GPA.

Nizich says he enjoyed connecting with Thompson.

“I’m glad a guy like Curtis is at the top with me, because he’s not arrogant about his success, and I really respect that about him,” Nizich says.

Nizich and Thompson know they have targets on their backs. But both feel confident as ever, as they prepare for other summer collisions, including the Chicagoland Throws, a national event July 12 in Lisle, Ill.

“I am excited to compete with him again,” Nizich says, “because I believe we are both competitors and will push each other to throw far.”

Nizich is a self-proclaimed mama’s boy.

“Big-time mama’s boy!” he says.

His mother, Mary, accompanied him on a recent visit to the University of Maryland.

“We’ve always been really close,” Mary Nizich says. “But I’ll always remember him as our little Johnny Boy running around.”

Jeff Nizich, John’s father, also is highly involved.

“My dad didn’t know the javelin very well,” John says, “but he still cheers me on big-time and is starting to get familiar with the sport.”

John Nizich jokes that his parents were so overjoyed during the 6A state championship meet that they forgot to take video of his winning throw of 218-11, which easily outdistanced the runner-up, Oregon City senior Easton Christensen (189-2).

“At the state meet, he threw over 218 with some real strong wind,” says Scott Skipper, a private throws coach and former UO football and track and field athlete who has worked with Nizich since his third-place finish (209-9) at the 6A state meet in 2013. “They could have easily been over 230. Trust me, he has a lot left in the tank.”

Often, Skipper says, “the harder you try, the worse it goes. I’m trying to teach him to believe in himself.

“John is at the first part of his career,” Skipper says. “I don’t want to put a number out there, because that puts limits on it. My motto is to put in the work. John is going to be great. He puts the time in, and the results will come, along with workouts, including Olympic weight lifting at my house.”

John is the second eldest in a household that includes brother James, 19, Samantha, 16, and Joseph, 12. They all have attended St. John the Apostle in Oregon City, where Joseph will be in the seventh grade next school year.

The biblical names are


“We raised our kids Catholic, and it was quite biblical in how we chose (their names),” Mary Nizich says, adding, “I’m still trying to figure out where Samantha came from.”

James Nizich is being recruited in the javelin by the University of Nebraska. He finished second (200-4) in the California Junior College State Championships as a freshman at the College of the Siskyous in Weed, Calif., after competing for Central Catholic.

Samantha Nizich is an all-around athlete who runs distance races and plays baskeball. Joseph Nizich already has started to follow in John’s footsteps.

“A great family that commits to giving back to the community and is really humble and grateful for their opportunities,” says Michael Bergmann, track and field coach at Central Catholic.

On May 18 at Jesuit High, Joseph Nizich set a new Catholic Youth Organization championship meet record in his age group with a throw of 136-6 in the turbo javelin competition.

It was almost a rite-of-passage moment for the Nizich brothers. John was there as a meet volunteer to crown his brother the winner, and give him his medal on the podium, while Mary was trying to fight back tears of joy.

It’s a “tearjerker to see your son (John) hand out the award to his little brother,” Mary says. “Pretty special.”

Joseph Nizich, 5-4 and 110 pounds, couldn’t have been happier.

“When he gave (the award to me), John gave me a big hug and I was really excited about it,” Joseph says. “I really want to be a thrower like John and work out a lot with him this summer.”

Plus, Joseph likes to pick John’s brain, and Joseph says John has done a good job of explaining things in hands-on detail, in a way the younger Nizich can fully understand, because there is so much terminology used in describing technique with javelin.

“Since third grade,” Joseph says, “I’ve been able to get help from John.”

Now, John Nizich is making plans to be a Duck. He gave a verbal commitment to Oregon’s 2014 NCAA championship track and field team on June 18, to follow in the footstep of national champion Sam Crouser, a former Gresham High star who will be a UO senior next year.

“It truly was the best fit for me,” Nizich says. “I decided to do it before Junior Nationals, which was important to me.”

Nizich plans on majoring in business, and says “I see myself contributing right away and working toward another national championship.”

His parents attended Oregon State.

“First time Ducks gear has been allowed in our house,” he says.

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