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Aybars Gungor of Amherst breaks national meet record in javelin

Aybars Gungor of Amherst set a New Balance Nationals meet record in the Emerging Elite division with a javelin throw of 179 feet, 2 inches. 

Aybars Gungor of Amherst set a New Balance Nationals meet record in the Emerging Elite division with a javelin throw of 179 feet, 2 inches. JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

Amherst Regional senior Aybars Gungor knew the New Balance Outdoor Nationals meet would be the last time he would throw a javelin in his high school career.

“I just knew the whole time that this was my last competition,” said Gungor, who was one of 13 Hurricanes participating Friday and Saturday at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, N.C. “This is it. I wanted to go out on a high note.”

On his third throw of the day, Gungor hit 179 feet, 2 inches. Not only was it a personal record, it set the Emerging Elite division meet record.

“I’ve thrown that far at practice,” Gungor said. “I knew I had it in me, I just focused on my mechanics and threw.”

“Over the last four weeks he’s been the most consistent competitor in western Mass., if not all of Massachusetts,” Amherst coach Dan Feldman said. “He’s been throwing in the 170s consistently. This is just a testament to how well he finished his high school career.”

Gungor, who will throw for the University of Maine next year, accomplished the feat after getting only a little over two hours of sleep. The Amherst boys team’s plane was scheduled to take off for North Carolina on Thursday at 2 p.m. After multiple cancellations due to poor weather, the team ended up departing around 9:30 p.m., and didn’t reach the hotel until 3 a.m. Friday morning. “We didn’t get to bed until around four,” Gungor said. “Then we were heading out around seven for the meet.”

Gungor’s throw surpasses the previous mark of 177 set in 2011 by Jake Cahan of New York. Gungor beat the second place finisher by 10 feet.

“After the New England meet, I was really stressed out. I had a lot of small, nagging injuries,” he said. “I talked to my dad and he told me to do my best and have fun. I definitely wanted a personal record, but at the end of the day I just wanted to have fun.”

After coming in first in the 100 meter dash at the New England championship, sophomore Taj-Amir Torres came in ninth place at the national meet, running a 10.782, and was 0.003 seconds away for qualifying for the final heat.

“I think he ran great. He stumbled out of the blocks a little, but he still had a nice run. He’s had a long year,” Feldman said. “He went the entire indoor season and that national meet, and then the whole outdoor season. He’s running against some of the best competition in the country, and this kind of event just makes him hungry for next year.”

Torres also ran in three relays Friday and will run in a fourth Saturday. He was part of the 4x200 team that came in 11th place overall in 1:31.94. The team, which also featured Devin Clarke, Kelzy Rodrigues, and Dylan Owens, won their heat.

“They just had great hand-offs,” Feldman said. “Clarke ran the best he’s ever run. He ran his leg in under 24 seconds, which is really impressive.”

Torres, Owens, Clarke and JJ Sylla finished ninth in the 4x100 in 43.90. Torres, Owens and Clarke were joined by Michael Stender in the 800 sprint medley and finished 14th in 1:37.17.

Torres, along with Owens, Rodrigues, and Connor Evans, will be part of the 1,600 meter sprint medley relay Saturday at 1:35 p.m. to wrap up the meet.

The Amherst girls team competed in four events. Mel Devoney ran the 5,000 meter in 18:01.1, which Feldman called “probably the best race of her career.”

The 4x100 team comprised of Emily Biggs, Kanya Brown, Jessie Rietkerk, and Ariel Christie came in 20th overall in 50.62 seconds. The 1,600 meter sprint medley, a team made up of Brown, Biggs, Rietkerk, and Devoney, ran a 4:21.78 and finished 16th.

Feldman called Biggs’ two relay legs the “highlight” of the girls squad’s performance.

Rietkerk finished 21st in the freshman girls 400 with a time of 1:01.10.

“Overall, everyone ran really well,” Feldman said. “It speaks wonders about their character. The boys didn’t get in until 3 a.m. and didn’t complain once. And the girls have been great all season long. You need to have a lot of heart and desire to compete in these kind of meets, and I really feel like this sums up our whole season.”

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