New Berlin - The remarkable athleticism of New Berlin's Jake Belongia was on display at an early age.
At just four or five months, he knocked over some gates guarding a stairwell in the Belongias' new house, ascended the stairs, entered a bathroom and climbed into the family's raised Jacuzzi.
"We had to watch him like a hawk," said Jake's father Scott. "He would keep crawling out of his crib too. In first grade, he set a school push-up record. He was always big for his age and strong."
Now, at age 11, his athletic abilities are evident in New Berlin programs as well as on state and national levels.
A few weeks ago, Jake brought home a national championship for his 11-12 age group in the softball throw at the 2011 Hershey Track and Field Games in Hershey, Penn.
He tossed the softball 180 feet, 7 inches, actually below some of his earlier efforts this year but still good enough to beat a youth from Texas by six feet. He and his fellow competitors had to battle high humidity from a recent rain, making conditions difficult.
"That was amazing," Jake said of his national title. "I was on top of the world after that."
Jake was one of two New Berlin boys to compete at that age group at this year's Hershey meet, as his close friend Mitchell Primus came in seventh in the long jump.
They were the only two boys from Wisconsin in the 11-12 group in the Hershey Meet, which attracts more than 400 youths ages 9-14 from across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
Everyone was treated to a week of fun, courtesy of Hershey Track and Field. Jake met 10-time Olympic medalist Carl Lewis and 1960 Olympian Rafer Johnson, both Hershey's spokesmen, and the qualifiers visited the Hershey plant and the Hershey Amusement Park.
Upon returning home from Hershey, Jake and his family received more good news.
"There was an envelope notifying us that Jake won the local Pepsi/NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition," said Jake's mother Susan. "He will advance to the sectional competition in October in Green Bay and has a chance to advance to the national competition at the 2012 Super Bowl."
Jake had qualified through his performance in a local event earlier in August.
"We had no idea about the punt, pass and kick competition," Susan said. "Another father told my husband about this event one day before it was held. We were able to get Jake signed up for it, and he competed in that event a couple days before we flew out to Pennsylvania."
Scott said Jake's point total in the initial competition would have put him in the top four at the national meet last year.
This run of state and national meets is notable, but competition is actually nothing new to Jake.
He also won a state wrestling championship in 2010 and placed second in the nation at 130 pounds at the youth USA Wrestling National Folkstyle Meet in Iowa during March.
On the local level, Jake set a record in the softball throw in May's annual New Berlin Track and Field youth meet with 209 feet, shattering the old mark of 166 feet.
Also in that meet, he won the 400-meter race and his relay team also came in first, allowing Elmwood Elementary to bring home the traveling trophy for the second straight year.
This summer, he belted 17 home runs and batted around .800 for the U-11 New Berlin Magic baseball team, and now he will play linebacker for a youth football team this fall.
"I just love athletics," he said. "Sports are pretty much my life."
Actually, that is not entirely true.
"He also does well in school and does wonderful things in the community," Susan said.
Scott said both he and Susan are good athletes, and all three of their daughters have followed suit, competing in gymnastics in the past.
Morgan, now 18 years old, is currently cheerleading in her freshman year at Northern Kentucky University, while Kayla (16) is on the dance team at New Berlin Eisenhower and Taylor (14) will be a cheerleader at the school.
Jake, now entering sixth grade at Elmwood, will likely also be headed to Eisenhower in a few years.
He said he can't wait - and it's a fair bet that the Eisenhower coaches are also eagerly anticipating his arrival.
CLIMBING THE LADDER
Here is the progress of New Berlin's Jake Belongia toward his national championship in the softball throw at the Hershey's Track and Field Games:
LOCAL: he threw 187 feet in a meet at West Allis Hale High School in spring
DISTRICT: he went for 216 feet at Racine in June
STATE: he hit 197 feet at Wauwatosa West High School in July
NOTE: Jake also won the 400-meter run at each level but did not qualify for the Hershey's national meet in that event
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