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January 11, 2013

Merchant Marine Assistant Coach De Jesus Breaks Puerto Rican National Weight Throw Record

Kings Point, NY – United States Merchant Marine Academy assistant track and field coach, Wilfredo De Jesus, broke his Puerto Rican National Weight Throw record this past weekend at the Crowell Invitational in West Point, NY with a distance of 20.70 meters.

Competing in the open division of the Crowell Invitational featuring top professional and semi-professional track and field athletes; De Jesus' impressive mark was only bested by 2011 United States Weight Throw Champion Jacob Freeman, one of his training partners.

"Every time I improve my personal best/national record it gives me a huge sense of national pride," said De Jesus.  "I know there are many young throwers in Puerto Rico who grew up in the same situation I did and look up to someone who is continually achieving milestones."

 De Jesus has held the Puerto Rican Weight Throw record since 2007 when he topped the previous record holder, Santos Vega.  De Jesus was also the Puerto Rican National Hammer Throw Champion in 2009, 2010, and 2011, has been a member of the Puerto Rican National team since 2004, and until a few years ago, held every Puerto Rican under 23 National Record.  In 2007, De Jesus was named Puerto Rican athlete of the year and became the first ever Puerto Rican to win a medal in the Pan American Games.

"I was glad to see those records broken," said De Jesus emphatically of his under 23 marks, "It's about time hammer and weight throwers are being developed in Puerto Rico."

De Jesus will be competing at the Puerto Rican National Championships on June 14th and 15th of this year, but has his sights set on loftier goals as he will be representing Puerto Rico at the Central American and Caribbean Games.  He only needs to increase his personal best distance by a small margin to qualify for World Championships in Moscow, Russia.  If he performs well at World Championships, De Jesus is hopeful he can qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.   

 "I first realized that the Olympics could be a real possibility in the summer of 2011," noted De Jesus. "Up until then I was nationally ranked in the NCAA, but the Olympics was always on a far back burner. Getting to where I have been has always been a long time goal for me and I owe a debt of gratitude to the efforts of many coaches that have worked with me over the past 11 years."

"I want to specially thank my high school coach Frankie Santana," continued De Jesus.  "He was the foundation of my athletic success and my personal high standards.  He set the ground work for me to be able to train with some of the best coaches in the country and strive for excellence." 

A native of Arroyo, Puerto Rico, De Jesus has been assisting the men's and women's track and field teams since August 2011.  He primarily works as a throwing coach, also serving as an off-season strength and conditioning assistant for speed and power events.

During the 2011-12 season, his first year at USMMA, De Jesus helped guide Tara Mulligan to the academy's first women's individual Landmark Conference track and field championship.  In working with De Jesus, her personal best mark in the Hammer Throw improved by nearly 10 meters. She repeatedly broke academy records throughout the season in both the Hammer and Weight Throws (a combined eight times) and was also the Landmark Conference runner-up in the Weight Throw.

In addition to the success De Jesus achieved with Midshipman Mulligan, the entire men's throwing squad has shown tremendous improvement under the guidance of De Jesus.  He coached Kevin Stapf '12 (who had not thrown prior to the 2011-12 season) to a national ranking of 26th in the Javelin and Ed Logan '12 to a personal best and Landmark Conference runner-up mark.

"Wilfredo's ability as an athlete gives him a lot of credibility with our throwers," said Greg Lott, Head Coach of the men's and women's track and field teams at USMMA.  "I think that training concurrent to coaching is helping him in both regards. He is able to practice techniques himself that he can then impart to athletes under his direction.  Many of our throwers have flourished with his guidance and I have a feeling that many more throwers in our program will reach equal heights in the coming years." 

Along with his wealth of track and field experience and achievements, De Jesus also has a background in competitive weightlifting.  Aside from his coaching duties, he's given back to the academy by promoting strength sports among midshipmen.

In about a year and a half De Jesus has organized a weightlifting club team which is currently in the process of getting recognized by USA Weightlifting and also set up the "World's Strongest Midshipman" competition consisting of a tire flip race, single arm press, and a farmer's carry. 

"Being at the Academy is a fantastic experience," said De Jesus.  "Although there have been some challenges, we've been able to overcome and work through them; helping me grow both as an individual as well as a coach."