JACKSON – Robert Paneque was a newcomer to the sport of track and field just over a year ago.
Today, Paneque, who recently graduated from Jackson Memorial High School, stands as the top javelin thrower in New Jersey following an outstanding senior campaign during which he won the gold medal in the event at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions on June 18 at Franklin High School in Somerset County.
Paneque’s winning throw at the Meet of Champions was 189 feet, 9 inches.
“It was very exciting,” said Paneque, the son of Robert and Dayna Paneque. “I had a lot of mixed emotions after I won. It was great to see all the work I did pay off.”
Paneque made tremendous strides during his second full season throwing the javelin for the Jaguars.
On June 11 at the Group IV state championship meet he set a Jackson Memorial record and a Shore Conference record with a throw of 208 feet, 6 inches to win the Group IV title. That throw was the best in New Jersey during the 2022 spring campaign.
“It was crazy to (throw) over 200 feet,” said Paneque. “It felt great to get a school record and a Shore Conference record.”
It was during the coronavirus pandemic when Paneque decided to switch from playing baseball to joining the Jackson Memorial track and field squad for his junior year.
Paneque said he believed the training he would do as a track and field competitor would help him become a better football player, which was his best sport at the time.
The decision to try to throw the javelin came from the advice of his father, who is the athletic director at Jackson Memorial High School.
Since Paneque was a catcher when he played baseball and had a good arm, his father believed he had the tools to be a good javelin thrower.
Paneque took that advice and enjoyed success in 2021. He threw a season-best mark of 165 feet, 4 inches at the Group IV state championship meet to place fifth and qualify for the Meet of Champions.
“I started out throwing 120 to 140 feet and then 165 feet, and it just kept growing from there. I just try to throw the best mark I can at every meet,” he said.
Paneque also threw shot put and he competed on the track in the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash.
During his senior campaign, Paneque primarily competed in the javelin and shot put. He finished fifth in the shot put at the Central Jersey Group IV state sectional meet with a personal best throw of 46 feet, 9 inches.
The young man has started to make a name for himself on the national stage.
Paneque earned All-American status by placing fourth in the javelin at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor Championships on June 19 in Philadelphia, where he recorded his second best throw of the 2022 season at 199 feet, 6 inches.
Paneque said he enjoyed sharing his success with his father, who watched him compete in every meet. He said it was a special moment after he won the gold medal at the Meet of Champions.
“My dad was very proud of me,” Paneque said. “He always pushed me to stay focused and to put maximum effort into everything I do. It was a great moment for both of us.”
Paneque is currently committed to throw the javelin for Central Connecticut State University as he prepares to enter college.
Two years ago the javelin was not even on Paneque’s radar, as he was focused on football and baseball. Now he is looking forward to seeing what he can accomplish in the event at the collegiate level.
“I am very excited (to throw in college),” he said. “I am looking forward to getting more training from my coaches to help me improve and throw farther.”