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Fourteen-year-old Jayd VanDerWerff, center, of Gregory, stands atop the podium after winning the boys' 13-14 softball throw at the 36th Annual Hershey's North American Track & Field Games Aug. 3 in Hershey, Pa. (Submitted photo)

VanDerWerff claims national title

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GREGORY -- When Jayd VanDerWerff left for the 36th Annual Hershey's North American Track & Field Games, he didn't know he'd return as a national champion.

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Since then, the 14-year-old Gregory native has received many congratulations since being home.

"Whenever I see people around town, they congratulate me," said VanDerWerff, who competed on Aug. 3 in Hershey, Pa.

In his second time competing in the event in two years, VanDerWerff claimed the boys' 13-14 softball throw crown with a toss of 221 feet.

In 2011, VanDerWerff placed fifth in the boys' 10-12 division with a throw of 164 feet, but said he didn't have any expectation coming in this time.

"I just wanted to try my best," he said, adding he doesn't practice for the Hershey events. "It was cool just meeting new people and I've had great experiences there. It's fun watching other athletes, too."

The event had two rounds and VanDerWerff -- who had a first throw of 212 feet -- knew he won before his final throw.

"I had the best throw from the first round and when the kid in front of me didn't beat my first throw, I knew I won," said VanDerWerff, whose parents are Jamie and Chris VanDerWerff . "I was relaxed and excited because I already knew I won. There were quite a few people from all regions, and we had a lot of region fans up there watching us."

He said standing on the podium was his favorite part of the meet.

VanDerWerff qualified for the national meet after winning the state meet June 22 in Belle Fourche. At state, he threw a personal-best 245 feet.

This was his third and final time competing in the Hershey events because the age limit is 14.

During his three years participating in state and national competitions, VanDerWerff competed in the softball throw, 100-meter dash and the 4x100-meter relay.

There were seven other competitors from South Dakota but VanDerWerff was the state's only champion.

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Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.
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