By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
When Holy Spirit senior Cade Antonucci finished second to Steve Jernee of Ocean City in the javelin at the Cape-Atlantic League championships in early May, it was a surprise to many. Antonucci, after all, was the defending state champion in the event.
But Antonucci didn’t think it was that big of a deal, especially considering he will still working his way back from a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. He wanted to make sure he was hitting his peak performance at the Meet of Champions and nationals.
Antonucci crushed the competition at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions on June 10, winning his second straight state championship with a throw of 220 feet, 11 inches. Jernee took third behind Timber Creek’s Alexander Georgiou with a toss of 209-4. Then, at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., Antonucci — who earned himself a track and field scholarship to Auburn University in 2016 — earned All-American status by finishing second to Liam Christiensen of Academic Magnet High School in Charleston, S.C. Antonucci checked in at 217-9 while Christienson won the event with a 228-foot toss.
Egg Harbor Township’s 4×800-meter relay team of Robert and Alex Dessoye, Eric Barnes and Aidin Hendriks also grabbed All-American honors, finishing second in a time of 7:40.43. It was a bit of redemption for the Eagles, who didn’t get a chance to compete for a state MOC title after being disqualified at sectionals. Their time at nationals was 10 seconds faster than Ridge’s winning time at the MOC.
“For me, my track seasons are all about peaking at the right time. About eight or 10 weeks out from Meet of Champions I set my peak for Meet of Champions, and it ended up working out perfectly. All those other meets are important and I love to do well at them, but the big meets are Meet of Champions and nationals. That’s when you want to be at your best, so that’s what I set my peak to,” said Antonucci, a Mays Landing resident who finished eighth at nationals a year ago. “It’s all about the last couple of weeks. The meets in the first couple weeks (of championship season) are important, but everybody remembers who won Meet of Champions.”
Antonucci suffered a setback during the indoor season when he partially tore his rotator cuff.
“I was dealing with the shoulder injury. I was going to doctors and physical therapy for it the whole season. It really started feeling great toward the end of the season,” he said. “I felt stronger than I did last year, and I was much better technically in my form.”
Antonucci said he was cautious this spring while trying to come back from the injury, so he didn’t really push himself until after the league championships.
“I definitely wanted to take it in strides. I didn’t want to overwork it right away. I built up slowly to the amount of throws I normally do. I just didn’t want to hurt it again,” Antonucci said. “The week of Meet of Champions, I did make a few technical changes. The week before, I was at 186 feet and I knew something had to change. I knew I had to take some risks to achieve a big throw. I made a few small tweaks to my technique and it ended up turning into big throws.”
Antonucci said he was happy about his finish at nationals.
“I was a few feet behind the No. 1 guy in the country. Obviously, my goal was to go there and win it, but I felt like I had a great series of throws. There was nothing to be disappointed about,” he said. “217 is a great throw to end the season on, and second at nationals is amazing, so I was happy to go there and do that well.”
Now, he turns his attention to Auburn University. Antonucci also was one of the top field goal kickers in the state for the Spartans’ football team, but said he’s not tempted to let the football staff at Auburn know about his other skill.
“It’s going to be a great time. I’m very excited to get into the college competition. There are some great throwers in the SEC,” Antonucci said. “(Kicking) might be a little much. I don’t know how happy my track coach would be if I started kicking field goals.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN