UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State’s All-American javelin throwers, Lauren Kenney and Laura Loht, have very different throwing styles, but their results this season have been remarkably similar.
Kenney is a “grip and rip” thrower, according to throws coach Patrick Ebel, while Loht is a more patient thrower. The two currently rank first and second, respectively, in the Big Ten.
“I think we’re the best duo in the country,” Loht said. “Even last year, I’d say we were a pretty powerful duo.
“Last year, every meet we went to that both of us entered, one of us won it — except nationals.”
Loht, a junior, and Kenney, a sophomore, finished third and fourth at last year’s NCAA championships, but they’re looking to place even higher this season. Kenney’s top throw of 176 feet, 11 inches, which shattered her previous personal best by almost 10 feet, ranks third in the NCAA this season. Loht’s throw of 159 feet, 7 inches ranks 21st.
This year’s Big Ten Championships will be held May 10-12 in Columbus, Oho. The NCAA Regionals will be May 23-25 in Greensboro, N.C., and the National Championships will be held June 5-8 in Eugene, Ore.
“They’re both very coachable, which makes a huge difference in an athlete,” Penn State head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan said of the throwers. “Making corrections, learning new techniques, getting in the weight room, getting stronger, changing their approach in the javelin to make it longer or faster ... they’re very coachable athletes and make those changes very naturally.”
Kenney, a State College Area High School graduate, and Loht, a graduate of the former Indian Valley High School near Lewistown, aren’t hearing any of that, however. They credit each other — and the rest of the Nittany Lion javelin throwers — for their success.
“We probably have the best training group (in the country),” Kenney said. “That definitely helps a lot.”
“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for them,” Loht said. “And that’s Olivia Mangan, Megan Boyer and Melanie Leszcynski, as well as Lauren.”
All five of Penn State’s javelin throwers are from Pennsylvania, which is one of only 18 states where the javelin is thrown in high school, according to a 2012 ESPN article.
“It makes my job a lot easier when they get here,” coach Ebel said. “These kids all come in and you’re really tweaking and making them stronger and tweaking their technique here and there a little bit. That’ll put on five, 10, 20 feet.
“I really think we could have all five of them at NCAA first rounds, which I don’t think has ever been done,” he added.
In addition to NCAA success, they have plenty of other accolades on their resumes. Loht won the college javelin title at last weekend’s Penn Relays — following a high school win there four years ago — and Kenney did the same winning last year at Penn Relays for the Nittany Lions and the year before for State College. Penn State has won four straight college javelin titles at the historic track and field meet.
For Kenney and Loht, getting to the NCAAs is just the beginning. What’s really important to them is improving from last year.
“Nationals-wise, I’d like to finish top three,” Kenney said. “Hopefully win — that’d be awesome. But top three and get All-American again.”
“I think sometime here within the next year, a Penn Stater will be bringing home a national title in jav, which will be pretty amazing,” Loht said.
Another dream for the pair, one that is much further down the road, is competing in the Olympics. Last year, Loht qualified for the Olympic Trials, where she finished 16th. Kenney just barely missed the cut, finishing 25th, with just 24 going to the trials.
“It’s definitely in the back of my mind,” Loht said. “But that’s four years down the road now, so I don’t know what’s going to happen between now and then, especially with the college career and schooling.”
Luke Petkac is a Penn State journalism student.