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UNEXPECTED OPPORTUNITY: Meteoric Rise in Javelin Lands Union’s Evie Bliss Division I Chance to Throw, Not Swim

FOXBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Evie Bliss sprinted down the runway at the PIAA Track and Field Championships at Shippensburg University in May, the javelin gripped tightly in her right hand.

She let it fly with a grunt.

(Pictured above, Union/A-C Valley’s Evie Bliss, right, celebrates with teammate Baylee Blauser after finishing runner-up in the javelin at the PIAA Track and Field Championships in May)

It landed just 67 feet away.

“That throw still haunts me,” Bliss said, laughing. “But the few throws after that have been a little better.”

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Bliss quickly regrouped after that poor throw. The junior ended up squeaking into the top nine and into the finals with a toss of 119 feet and then uncorked her career-best effort of 140 feet, 11 inches to place second.

It was an unheard of climb at the PIAA championships — very rarely does someone in ninth place going into a final come so close to winning a championship. Bliss did, and it was a throw that put her on the javelin map.

It certainly caught the eye of Bucknell University assistant coach Ryan Protzman, who has some history in District 9 as a former track and field coach at Moniteau.

Protzman began pursuing Bliss in earnest to come throw for the Bison. So did other schools.

Suddenly a sport that was nothing more than a passing curiosity for Bliss became an unexpected avenue toward a spot at a Division I program.

If Bliss was going to move on to the next level athletically, she thought, it was surely going to happen in swimming. That was her passion. Still is — and for good reason. She’s very good at it, winning District 9 championships in the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle last season as an independent swimmer because Union does not offer the sport.

She has four district gold medals in all.

Bliss only joined the track team at Union (and then for Union/A-C Valley last year as the schools entered a co-op) as something to do after the swim season concluded, since her days of playing baseball were over.

COVID wiped out her freshman season. As a sophomore, she began throwing the javelin.

It wasn’t necessarily because she liked it.

It was merely a means to an end.

“I didn’t really take it seriously,” Bliss said, letting out a laugh. “It was just something to get me out of running.”

Little did she know it would end up being so much more.

Bliss would have never thought just two years ago that she would be sitting at a desk at the Allegheny Grille, her coaches and family surrounding her, signing a national letter of intent to throw the javelin in college.

But that’s just what she did on Thursday, putting pen to paper to make her future at Bucknell official.

(Evie Bliss, front center, after signing her national letter of intent to throw the javelin at Bucknell University. With her to Bliss’ right is Union/A-C Valley co-head track and field coach Shanna Tharan and to her left throwing coach Lexis Twentier. Behind her are Bliss’ parents, Casey and Amanda Bliss.)

“Even a year ago, I would have said you were crazy if you told me I’d be throwing the jav in college,” Bliss said, chuckling.

That’s because Bliss had only cracked 100 feet once as a sophomore. Even at the beginning of her junior year, she struggled a bit and figured not much would come out of her throwing.

But things began to click as the weather warmed and the regular-season waned. Bliss won the Redbank Invitational with a throw of 136-3 to set the stage for her performance on the big stage in Shippensburg.

“I think she really surprised herself last year with what she was able to accomplish throughout the season and at the state track meet,” said Union/A-C Valley throwing coach Lexis Twentier, who was in her first season with the Falcon Knights this spring. “We have a running joke about her first throw at states. I think she was in her head for a few minutes. It was a big meet and it was all brand new.”

Bliss said Twentier helped her immensely, especially with her mechanics.

Twentier threw the javelin at Keystone High School and then for a season at Clarion University.

“She saw I had poor, poor form,” Bliss said. “She was sort of cracking down on me, trying to get that fixed. She knows what she’s talking about and she definitely helped me with my run up. She didn’t give up on me, even with some really bad throws here and there.”

Bliss admits she is still a work in progress and hasn’t come close to realizing her full potential.

She said her mechanics still leave a lot to be desired — she relies on her strong shoulders from swimming and baseball to power the javelin.

With more fine-tuning, Bliss believes she has some very big throws in her future.

The school record is just a few feet away — she’s hoping to snap that in the first meet this spring as a senior.

Then, she is gunning for throws consistently in the 160-foot range. That would put her comfortably ahead of some of the best in the state.

“I have no doubt she’s chasing that school record early in the season this year and a state title,” Twentier said. “I’m proud of the work she has put in, not only at practices, but on her own. Bucknell is lucky to get an all-around good individual like Evie. I know they’ll continue to push her to work hard every day and hit her goals.”

While Bliss is looking forward to the spring and then seeing what she can do at Bucknell, she’s also focused on this swim season.

It will be bittersweet because it will be her last.

“It’s been a little hard knowing,” Bliss said. “I mean, I love swimming. It’s been my entire life up until now. But I’m really excited about this new chapter.”

Because this will be her final year in the pool, Bliss has set some lofty goals for herself.

“If I’m gonna go out,” she said, “I’m gonna go out with a big splash.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.