, Salem, MA

January 4, 2014

Jean DePlacido column: Under Smith, Peabody tracksters embrace new weight throw event

By Jean DePlacido

---- — There is something new and exciting for the Peabody boys’ track team this winter: the weight throw has been added, and it’s proving to be very popular.

The addition of the weight throw has been headed up by former Bishop Fenwick coach Jay Smith, who joined the Peabody staff and designed the program.

“We’re very excited to have Coach Smith as a member of our throwing and strength conditioning team,” said head coach Fernando Braz. “His 22 seasons of developing young people to be better citizens while producing many state champions and national contenders in all throwing disciplines is legendary.

“As a program, our priority and philosophy is to develop the person first and athlete second. Under the leadership of (coaches) Tom Holleran and Dennis Grube, the weight team has been the leaders in implementing the philosophy.”

Smith decided to step down from his Bishop Fenwick coaching post before the season started, wanting more free time to pursue other things. But he still wanted to remain active in the weight throw and hammer, two areas where his Crusaders enjoyed great success at state and national events. After Smith’s daughters graduated from Fenwick last year, he wanted a less demanding schedule and has found the perfect situation with the Tanners.

“My daughters ran for Braz in his summer program, and the last couple of years I’ve been one of the coaches. Last summer I worked with the football kids,” said Smith. “He and I are on the same page, and I’m happy being there 2-4 days a week and bringing a slightly different aspect to the program. Grube and Holleran are veterans, and we have a nice division of labor.

“The best thing for me is not having to be there every day. It was different when my daughters were running. The first time it snowed this season, I was thankful I didn’t have to be in charge of 100 kids.”

The Tanners saw immediate results at the first weight event of the young season. Last weekend Smith took juniors Marcus Vieira and John Spinale to the Boston Holiday Challenge at the Reggie Lewis facility. Vieira placed second in the 25-pound weight throw with a toss of 50 feet 8 1/4 inches, while Spinale was eighth (39 feet). The winner was Acton-Boxborough junior Matt Dutton (54 feet), who works with Smith and trains with a group of Tanners learning the event.

“It was a great start,” said Smith. “In six total throws Vieira got better each time, and all three kids had their best on the last throw. Marcus was winning the meet until Dutton’s next to last throw. I’m very pleased with their progress in such a short time; we’ll be back at Reggie Lewis this weekend, then have the Dartmouth State Relays Jan.10-11.

“We throw early in the morning because you’ve got to be very careful that the 25 pound weight doesn’t get away when there are a lot of people around, but there’s a lot of other stuff we can do to train. Things will really heat up in mid-February into March.”

Smith has been very pleased with the response at Peabody and enjoys having four other coaches working with weight events.

“Fernando has good guys on his staff, and the kids are developing quickly,” said Smith, who is still trying to help out at Fenwick, saying he wrote their program for the first three weeks of the season. “Peabody swept the shot put in the first two events. One freshman made a 4-foot improvement at the Freshman-Sophomore meet. We’re converting to a rotational-style throw and Patrick Chang, one of our freshmen, is already throwing 34 feet.

“We have opportunities to make some noise as a team. I love having a lot of big bodies on this team; as a throwing coach that’s just what you want to see.”

Braz said although the weight throw and hammer are new events for Peabody athletes, they are responding well. “We’re confident that our current and future athletes will benefit greatly at the scholastic and collegiate levels,” he said. “Jay also has extended knowledge and experience in strength and conditioning which is an asset for any sport at the high school.”

Most athletes don’t learn the weight throw or hammer until they reach college, but those high school athletes who pick it up now will have a big advantage. Under Smith, Fenwick was a pioneer, and Ray Carey has taken these events seriously at St. John’s Prep. Two Eagles had impressive finishes at the Holiday Classic with Evan Dombrowski placing (46-5), and Vinnie LaRovere fourth (44-61/4).


Jean DePlacido is a part-time writer and columnist for The Salem News. Contact her at