WINTER GARDEN A little over four years ago, when Janae Taplin was just a freshman, she decided to give throwing the shot put and discus for the West Orange track and field team a shot.
She wanted to stay active, after all, and her mother, Shenae Rasberry, had been a thrower while in high school at Plantation High in South Florida.
Now, in the midst of her senior season with the Warriors, that decision has paid off in the form of an athletic scholarship to compete at Florida International University.
Taplin is the senior leader of a throwing unit for the Warriors’ girls track and field team that includes several talented underclassmen, and she has her eyes set on returning to the state meet May 6 to 7 in Bradenton.
For someone who began her career with a shot put mark around 25 feet and a discus throw average of around 55 feet, Taplin now lays claim to a personal-best shot put toss of 37 feet, 6 inches and a top discus throw of 116 feet.
“It’s a combination of her natural ability and hard work,” West Orange throwing coach David Peaco said. “She bought in to the program and continued to improve.”
Although Taplin’s improvement has been steady over her time on campus, her junior year is when the Warrior truly came into her own. Starting with the Metro Conference meet in the spring of 2015, Taplin excelled. Before the spring was over, she had to her credit a district championship (discus), a second-place finish at regionals (shot put) and a top-15 finish at the state meet (shot put).
“I was so excited, and from there, it just blossomed,” Taplin said.
Taplin, who also has competed for West Orange on its girls weightlifting team, has grown in more than just her abilities as a thrower. On a team with talented throwers such as freshman Danielle Ficka (who already has a 39-foot, 6-inch shot put throw to her credit — one of the top throws in the state this spring) and junior Daija Kiser (who has a personal shot put record of 37 feet, 8 inches), Taplin has become a leader, organizing bonding events outside of practice.
“She possesses amazing weight room strength, and once her technique gets a little fine tuning, she’ll be competing for conference titles. “
— FIU coach Ryan Heberling
“I’m really excited about her leadership this year,” Peaco said. “(Taplin has) been kind of a key to some of our success with bringing the girls together.”
Peaco helped to facilitate matching Taplin with the program at FIU. Taplin, who aspires to be an orthodontist and who has family in the greater Miami area, is excited for the next stage of her career.
“I love the diversity down there,” Taplin said. “I want to major in biology, and the biology program (at FIU) is excellent.”
The excitement goes both ways, though.
“Janae is an exciting addition to the lady throws program,” FIU coach Ryan Heberling said. “She possesses amazing weight room strength, and once her technique gets a little fine tuning, she’ll be competing for conference titles. … I expect her to be a top-notch weight thrower her freshman year.”
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].