J.J. Ply is having a summer to remember.
Ply, who just graduated from Dayton High School, qualified for the AAU Nationals in the decathlon after winning a Pacific regional championship in record-setting fashion last weekend in California.
Ply set personal bests in seven events — 100 (11.99), long jump (20-3 2/4), shot put (39-9 1/2), 400 (51.65), discus (121-3 1/2), javelin (174-6 1/2) and 1500 (4:19.29) — en route to scoring a career-best 6,904 points. His previous best was 6,600.
Add in his 13-foot pole vault, which was a decathlon best, and you have eight PRs. Pretty impressive.
“He had a monster weekend,” said Kevin Ply, J.J.’s father. “He PR’d by more than 300 points. The previous record was 6,400 and change. He broke that by 500 points. It was pretty impressive. He had seven PRs out of 10. Eight if you count the pole vault because he’s back up to jumping 13 feet.”
Ply now advances to the national championships in Lawrence, Kan., starting July 24. The turnaround is a little quicker than normal.
The Dayton grad has 7,000 on his mind at the national event. He’s currently ranked third in the nation in the 17-18 age group, and could be ranked higher. One of the athletes ranked ahead of him is at the Pan-American event.
“I’m shooting for 7,300,” J.J. Ply said. “If I can hit all the stuff I’ve been working on this summer. Everything came together.”
Especially in the field events. Ply PR’d in the shot, discus and javelin. Weight events are sometimes the hardest to improve in for athletes who are runners. Ply PR’d by 15 feet in the discus and 14 feet in the javelin.
“Everything is so technical,” J.J. Ply said. “I think my PR in the discus was only 106 feet.”
The improvement has come because he has devoted more time to those events than ever before. Conversely, he hasn’t spent as much time on the high jump since the high school season ended. He high jumped 6-10 a few times in high school, but hasn’t reached that this summer.
“We haven’t spent any time on the high jump,” the younger Ply said. “We have been working on other events. That happens sometimes.”
There was a little controversy, however, and it may have cost Ply a chance to reach 7,000 points.
Ply was timed in 15.0 in the 110 high hurdles, and his dad, Kevin, feels the timing was off.
“He ran a great race,” Kevin Ply said. “The second-place guy was two hurdles back. There were several clocks on him that had him from 14.2 to 14.7. I’m not fussing about it.”
The 11.99 was the first time J.J. had eclipsed the 12-second mark. The elder Ply was impressed with the 13-foot vault. J.J. Ply had struggled during the season in the pole vault. He broke two different poles during the season. His recent success has attracted the attention of some four-year schools. Ply has already signed to attend Central Arizona, a community college. Ply said Oklahoma has shown some interest as well as Azusa Pacific, and a good showing in Kansas could help his four-year chances.
“I think it (a good performance) could,” J.J. Ply said. “Right now, I’m doing two years at Central Arizona. Then if I have a good meet it could put me on somebody’s radar, or I could generate more interest.”