Saunders defends USA Jr. shot put title

Joe Call will replace his grandfather, John McKissick, as head football coach at Summerville. Jairy Hunter/Summerville Journal Scene

Southern Illinois University freshman and two-time NCAA shot put champion Raven Saunders successfully defended her USA junior title in her signature event at the USATF Junior Outdoor Championships on Friday at historic Hayward Field.

Just one day after finishing eighth in the senior shot put as the only collegian to make finals, the former Burke High standout ran away with the junior title on her fourth throw of 17.01m (55-09.75) to win by more than two feet. It was smooth sailing for Saunders, who took a monster seven-foot lead on her first throw alone (16.86m/55-03.75) before the field was able to close the gap.

The Charleston native, who dedicated her performances this week to the victims of the recent tragedy in her hometown, has been near unstoppable at Hayward Field.

The Saluki freshman’s first trip was last summer for the IAAF World Junior Championships, where she finished as the runner-up to become the first American to medal in the shot put in 10 years. After becoming a fan favorite at the world junior meet in 2014, Saunders was at ease two weeks ago when she completed the indoor-outdoor NCAA shot put title sweep with another dramatic comeback victory on her final throw to win by two feet at another American Junior record of 18.35m (60-02.50).

This most recent accolade adds to the already very long list of triumphs for Saunders, who in just one year under SIU head coach Connie Price-Smith and national assistant coach of the year John Smith has accumulated two NCAA titles, two MVC titles, two American Junior records, two SIU records and four MVC records. Saunders also became the first American Junior to ever break 18 meters in the shot put this year, a feat she has replicated numerous times. Prior to SIU, she earned a 2014 World Junior silver medal, a 2014 USA junior shot put title, two high school national titles and two all-time national high school girls shot put records.

Friday’s win also assures her a chance for another medal with a spot on Team USA for the Pan-American Junior Championships, to be held this year in Edmonton, Canada, from July 31-Aug. 2.

Summerville High assistant football coach Joe Call has been picked to serve as interim head coach for the 2015 season, the school has announced.

Call replaces longtime coach John McKissick, who recently announced his retirement after 63 years as the Green Wave coach.

Call, who is McKissick’s grandson, has served as a physical education teacher and assistant football coach at Summerville since 2003.

In addition to his coaching duties with the school’s football program, he served as head coach for the girls’ track and field team for five years and was the boys’ track and field coach for two years.

Summerville principal Kenny Farrell said the school plans to open a search for a head coach next spring.