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VanDerWerff earned a first place finish in the softball throw at Hershey North American Games. Jayd VandDerWerff, age 14, threw a softball 221 feet in Pennsylvania on Saturday, August 3, 2013. That throw earned him first place in the Boy’s 13-14 Softball Throw at the 36th Annual Hershey’s North American Track & Field Games in Hershey, PA.  Jayd’s winning throw was 221 feet. That distance is over 73 yards on a football field. It was a clear win for him. The second place finisher threw 211 feet.  The event had two rounds. Jayd finished the first round with a throw of 212 feet. In the second round, he made the winning 221 foot throw.  To earn his spot at the national competition, Jayd had to rank at the top of the Midwest Region competitors. He won the local contest. He threw 245 feet at the state tournament in Belle Fourche. That throw beat all the other Midwest regional winners that are located in six states and two provinces of Canada.  This is Jayd’s second trip to the North American Finals. In 2011, he placed fifth in the Boys 10-12 Softball Throw with a distance of 164 feet. He didn’t prepare any differently for either year. “I don’t really practice. I just show up and throw,” said Jayd.  Jayd was one of the seven South Dakota competitors on the Midwest Region team.  The South Dakota youths traveled together and attended activities as a team. The trip is all expenses paid for competitors at the North American finals. They spent a day at the Hershey theme park and took a tour of the chocolate factory. Following Saturday’s games they attended a banquet that was followed by a dance.  The Hershey athletes had the opportunity to hear Carl Lewis and Rafer Johnson speak at the opening and closing ceremonies. The two men were Olympic gold medal winners in track and field events. Jayd got their autographs. Lewis and Johnson were on the podium to award the medals to the winners in each event.  Jayd’s strongest memory of the meet was standing on the highest step of the winners’ platform and looking out at all the photographers and fans.  Jayd is in eighth grade at Gregory Middle School. He plays football, basketball, track and summer baseball. It’s his final year competing in Hershey events since the age limit is 14.  Jayd’s parents are Jamie and Chris VanDerWerff.  Curt Stukel is the organizer for the local Hershey meets. Boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 14 can compete in the 50, 100, 200 and 400 meter dash, the 800 meter run, the 4x100 meter relay, the standing long jump and the softball throw.  Bella Swedlund of Winner placed second in this year’s 9-10 year old softball throw.

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