April 24, 2024

With the Levy Siblings Excelling at Javelin, PHS Track Shines at Mercer County Relays

FAMILY BUSINESS: Princeton High track standouts Devin Levy, right, and his sister, Naomi, display their javelin form. Last weekend, the Levy siblings excelled as PHS competed in the Mercer County Relays. Devin, a junior, had the second-best throw of any competitor and combined with sophomore Simon Obregon to take second place in the boys division. Naomi, a sophomore, had the top throw in the girls division as she threw 82’10, a personal best for her.

By Justin Feil

Devin Levy and his sister Naomi Levy borrowed javelins last spring for the chance to continue to practice in the offseason.

The extra work and dedication is paying off for the Princeton High siblings this year.

Devin, a junior, had the second-best throw of any competitor and combined with sophomore Simon Obregon to take second place in the boys division at the Mercer County Relays last Saturday at Lawrenceville School.

“I felt good,” said Devin. “We had some fun in it last year and wanted to come back. Obviously I wanted to do well. It’s the first big meet of the season and I think Simon and I did pretty well. We placed second so we can’t complain.”

Devin last year won the relays crown with Henry Zief, who graduated and is throwing for High Point University. Devin threw 133’3 at the relays meet last year. On Saturday, he threw 140’6 and Obregon threw 117’8. Only the combination from Allentown threw it further.

“I thought I threw pretty well,” said Devin. “I mean, I think there’s more to be done, but it’s early season. I’m happy where I’m at right now. I think that’s pretty far.”

Naomi had the top throw in the girls division. The sophomore threw 82’10, a personal best for her. Her partner did not have any marked throws, but for Naomi the chance to compete again was important as she continues to progress.

“This spring I’ve been throwing pretty good and I’ve thrown some PRs at the past meets,” said Naomi. “I’m just having fun with it.”

The Tigers see plenty to build on from their team coming out of the relays meet. The boys relay of Sean Wilton and Osbaldo Morales won the boys shot put at 88’10.25. Sawyer Quallen and Ishaq Inayat won the boys’ triple jump at 80’6. Wilton and Michael Bao were second in the boys discus with a combination that equaled 143’0, nine inches shy of first. Inayat and Oliver Spagnoli were second in boys long jump at 38’9.25. The Tiger boys were third in the distance medley in 11:10.14 and fourth in the 4×200 in 1:34.83.

“Historically, I would say we’ve been a distance focused program and then you know the sprints really started coming into form over the last decade or so,” said PHS head coach Ben Samara.

“This year I think it’s a little bit the opposite. We still have a solid distance program, but you know on the county and sectional level, we’re looking for people to step up and kind of get to that next level to complement what we’re doing in the throws and in the jumps.”

The PHS girls were second in the 4×200 in 1:49.98, second in the 4×1600 in 22:14.55, third in the girls distance medley in 13:11.66, fourth in the 4×100 in 51.69 seconds and fifth in the 4×400 in 4:18.22.

“We were thrilled with this meet,” said Samara. “A lot of things that we were working on, that we spent a lot of time on, came together. We have a really nice mix of people who are ready to do big things right now and younger athletes who are really going to kind of be the next wave after them. So we had a little bit of everything on Saturday and we were really happy with the results.”

Naomi Levy’s throw Saturday marked the third meet in a row in which she bettered her personal best. Her progression stems from getting extra practice last year and being able to build on a solid fundamental foundation that was reinforced in the summer at home.

“We would throw it occasionally in our backyard because it’s big enough to be able to throw it,” said Naomi.

“And it really helps in the offseason and when it’s nice outside to get to throw.”

In season, she credits the full coaching staff at PHS that now includes former Princeton University head coach Fred Samara on the staff. The Levy siblings also have their father, Jeff, who threw javelin, for guidance outside of their school coaching.

“I think it’s super helpful,” said Devin. “He’s super supportive. We can just talk about throws and it’s always another set of eyes. So at the end of a throw, it’s like I can go back to him and he’ll tell me what he saw and I’ll tell him what I felt and then we’ll find the middle ground on what to improve on and what exercises to improve it.”

And – not to be overlooked – the Levys have each other.

“It’s really helpful because at practice, if our coach is busy with another throwing group, I can always ask my brother to watch my throw and he knows a lot and he knows more than me about javelin,” said Naomi.

“So he always gives me good advice and it’s also fun because it’s something we can bond over.”

They try to do whatever is possible to help the other. In the summer, that meant taking advantage of their yard to fine-tune their technique.

“I always try to get stronger and also in the summer I would just keep practicing the fundamental movements to make sure I remember them,” said Naomi.

“And then I could practice my steps. So right now I’m working on my run up so I can throw even farther.”

The summer gave them an opportunity to get ahead as they entered their third and second seasons of high school. It kept them sharp during a time when some take off from practicing.

“I think they’re really helpful for getting like the muscle memory of the run up,” said Devin.

“I’m very confident in my steps after a lot of work on it over the summer and there’s just that and really a lot of strength training to get my body to be able to handle the throwing a lot throughout the year.”

Having a built-in cheerleader helps too. They encourage each other year-round and try to be as supportive as possible as they try to reach their potential.

“I’ve just tried to be there for what she needs me for,” said Devin.

“I don’t want to give her too much information and overwhelm her or confuse her, so I just let her know, if you want any advice from me or what I see, just ask and I’ll tell you what I’m thinking.”

They benefit from having each other’s support in both practice and in meets. They often find ways to impress each other.

“I love to see that she’s having success with it and I just like having a partner to throw with,” said Devin.

“And I also think that she does what I can’t do, like she’s very graceful with her throws, mine are all power.”

At meets like the county relays, they relish the chance to see each other throw and to celebrate the progress of each other. So far, there has been a lot to celebrate.

“Like two weeks ago we both PR’d,” said Naomi, “so it was very exciting.”

Their father has been able to guide them as they’re starting their careers. Naomi picked up the javelin for the first time last year. Devin had started throwing just a little bit in eighth grade. After a couple of injuries hampered his last two seasons, he has been focused on staying healthy through to the end this year and likes the way this year started. He’s been working on improving his technique from the old baseball throw style he would fall back on to a more injury preventative form for the javelin. It gives him confidence he can finish hitting lofty goals.

“It feels like everything’s starting to come together,” said Devin.

“I look at the videos and it looks very good and then I also have just had a great support system this year and last year to sort of get me to this point between Henry, coach Samara, his dad, Mr. Samara and Brandon Williams, and then my dad. I’ve had a lot of eyes and a lot of different people that I can sort of work out what needs to be fixed in my throw.”

The county relays was another meet to show that they are progressing well. The second-place finish was one of the highest finishes for a PHS relay, and Naomi’s throw was the best of any girl competing Saturday. She is focusing on staying ahead of the field. Her improvements are focused on stretching her arm consistently and being quicker to turn her hips after she plants to throw.

“They think they can put another 30 feet on this year for Devin,” said Samara.

“If he goes back to that long run and Naomi just keeps improving over and over and over every meet, she’s just gotta work on putting more power behind her throw. She has perfect technique right now. She just needs to add that power in there.”

The Levys are both working to be able to peak by the end of the season. The PHS coaches think their early throws are just a starting point to bigger things. They are part of a Little Tigers team that is off to a promising start.

“It’s been really, really productive,” said Samara. “It’s been really, really nice to see the hard work and the dedication that the kids are bringing every day. They’re really buying into the values of our program. We talk a lot about growth mindset, we talk a lot about resiliency being two of the hallmarks of what we do, and the kids have really taken that to heart. And so we’re seeing it every day.”

The productivity has PHS on pace for some lofty goals. The Tigers have a championship in their sights if they can continue to get the sort of efforts that they saw at the Mercer County Relays and the dedication that they’ve seen thus far in practices.

“On the boys side, we were Mercer County champions last year and we think we have a really good shot to repeat if we can turn out in our events the way we know that we can,” said Samara.

“On the girls side, we’re in an interesting spot. We know that this is a group of contenders and it’s not this year, but we need to take this year to really build this group up so they can start to contend as early as next year when we have pretty much everybody back. We have a really young distance crew and sprint crew on the girls side. It’s going to be really, really good. So we get to do the boys this year and kind of build for the girls and that’s kind of fun.”