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Mercersburg native to compete at Olympic Track & Field Trials

July 04, 2008|By ANDREW MASON

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Allen Pettner already has proved that he is one of the top javelin throwers in the country.

Now, he gets the chance to see if he belongs among the world's best next month in Beijing.

"My goal has been to make the Olympics," said Pettner, a former All-American thrower for Hagerstown Community College and a native of Mercersburg, Pa. "I don't feel that that's out of reach."

His personal best throw of 239 feet, 9 inches has him seeded 17th of 24 competitors at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene, Ore. The top 12 from tonight's preliminary round advance to Sunday's final. The top three Sunday will earn spots on the U.S. team - if they have met the Olympic 'A' qualifying standard of 268-4.

"It's probably going to take 270-plus to make the team," said Pettner, who graduated from Penn State University in December 2007 as a two-time Big Ten Conference champion.

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He took two warmup throws before competition began at the Jesse Owens Classic at Ohio State University early this May, and he said both were around 270.

"The officials were going crazy. It was kind of funny," Pettner said. "One of the guys was like, 'Wow, I can't wait for the competition.'"

While Pettner won the event, he only threw 225-8.

Now, he's ready to share a somewhat-dark secret about that day.

On his second warmup throw, Pettner suffered an ulnar collateral ligament tear in the elbow of his right throwing arm. He hasn't competed since that day.

"I haven't told anyone," he said. "I didn't announce it."

The Tommy John surgery he needs has been put on hold. Through physical therapy and intense workouts, Pettner has kept his Olympic dream alive.

"I don't think I've ever been in better shape than I am now," he said. "The doctor is pretty optimistic about it. The progress I've made the past few weeks has been amazing.

"Before this injury, earlier this season, I was 100 percent confident that nothing could stop me and that I'd be in Beijing in August.

"This elbow injury is now limiting my chances, but I've never been more determined. I'm still optimistic. It's just going to be very painful. But I'll throw until my arm falls off. This is the biggest meet of my life."

However it goes, Pettner said he plans to be back in four years to try again for the 2012 London Olympics.

"They say, after the surgery, that I'll come back stronger than before the injury," he said. "That's definitely something to look forward to. I still have a future in this."

Pettner, who graduated from James Buchanan High School in 2003 and HCC in 2005, has remained in State College, Pa., since graduating from Penn State. He still receives guidance from Nittany Lions coach Dayna Wagner.

"I've got a part-time job as a bouncer at a night club, and I've basically been training full-time," he said.

This fall, he's set to begin working on a doctorate degree in biomedical statistics at Penn State.

"I'll be in school another six years," he said.

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