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Valley Strean North's Juel Charles uses nervous energy to nab longest toss in shot put

Valley Stream South's Juel Charles won the wieght

Valley Stream South's Juel Charles won the wieght throw with a distance of 44' 11" during the Elite Track and Field Meet at St. Anthony's High School on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

If there is such a thing as nervous confidence, Juel Charles has it. The Valley Stream North shot putter has finally figured it out, and just in the nick of time, too. With a week to go before the indoor state championships, Charles has the top mark in the state, according to milesplit.com, a 42 foot, 9½ inch throw that won her the Nassau Class B title on Feb. 7.

Charles said she wasn’t aware of the lofty status until the Nassau State Qualifying meet on Feb. 14. Battling a cold, Charles wasn’t throwing her best. Sensing her frustration, her coaches calmed her down by revealing the already impressive feat.

“They were like ‘just relax because you have the number one throw in the state,’ ” Charles said. “They told me not to get intimidated or stressed out.”

The pep talk was good enough to get Charles to reel off a 38-foot, six-inch throw to place second in the meet and qualify for the state indoor championships, scheduled for March 2 at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island. It is there that Charles will try and turn an impressive number into something way more tangible — state gold.

“I feel like whenever I’m nervous, I’m more inspired,” Charles said. “It’s a good type of nervous.”

A lot goes into throwing shot, and Charles finally has it down. First, and maybe most importantly, throwing with the legs.

“When you throw, it’s all in your legs,” Charles said. “When you get lower, you jump higher. You use your legs to engage in the throw. Everyone works on strength but, to be honest, it’s really just technique…You have to transition quicker from the back of the circle to the front of the circle and make sure that you don’t turn your body toward the center early. You have to stay in one position and you have to make sure you get low to throw.”

Next, but no less significant, is resting the shot on the neck before flight.

“The ball has to come out at a certain angle,” she said. “If it’s too high of an angle, you’ll have a short throw. If it’s too low of an angle, we call it ‘the stop sign.’ It stops and just drops. If it goes out at that perfect angle and you use your legs properly, you should get the perfect throw.”

That’s what Charles is hoping for on Staten Island.

“If I hit the around the same distance I hit at the county championship meet, I’ll become state champion no problem,” Charles said. “My coaches have told me that if I hit at least 42 [feet], that should be winning. That’s a guarenteed win.”

After practicing Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of President’s Week, Charles said she doesn’t intend to take a day off during the final week before the state championships.

“If I want to be state champion I have to work hard for it,” she said.

Charles may be a little nervous, but she still has every reason to believe that the first Saturday of March will be one to remember.

“I will end my season on a good note,” she said, mater-of-factly.

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