May 19, 2016
Brentwood High School senior Sophia Rivera is already one of the best prep track and field athletes in Missouri history, and this weekend she’ll look to join only a handful of other athletes to ever win four state titles in the same event. Rivera will try to capture her fourth Class 2 shot put and discus titles at Jefferson City High School, and the first time exhibition javelin competition. Rivera has already accomplished so much in four years, but she is far from completing her athletic career.
Rivera was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in New Jersey before moving to the St. Louis area when she was in sixth grade. When the Rivera’s moved to St. Louis they looked for a throws coach Sophia could work with and found Ron Eichert, a former college thrower. They have taken a slow and steady approach to strength and throws training, focusing on down the road success instead of quick, early age success. The plan has worked well.
Sophia Rivera talks early throwing start, coach, representing USA:
Rivera had a breakout junior year in 2015. Rivera threw the shot put farther than any Missouri girl before her with an indoor best of 50-6.25 and claimed the New Balance Nationals Indoor shot put title. In April, she captured Kansas Relays titles in the javelin and shot put while competing in the events simultaneously. At her home meet, Rivera threw the javelin 175-10 for the US High School #5 mark all-time. Rivera then went to the prestigious Penn Relays where she captured the javelin title with a 169-6.75 mark.
At the 2015 State Track Meet, Rivera threw the shot 51-.25 to break Blue Springs’ Valyeta Althouse’s 1992 overall state meet record of 47-7.75. That is more than three feet further than the previous record. In the discus, River threw a PR of 154-9, less than five feet from Putnam County’s Katie Evans 2009 Class 2 record of 160-05, and less than ten feet from Marquette’s Amarachi Ukabam’s 165-01 All-Class meet record.
A week later Rivera competed in the discus in Marietta Georgia, with a best mark of 155-0. At the Great Southwest Track Classic in Albuquerque, Nm., Rivera won the shot put-51-1.75 and javelin-152-1, while taking third in the disc with a 141-9. Rivera was a member of the National Scholastic Athletic Foundation team that represented the US at the Caribbean Scholastic Invitational in Cuba. Rivera won the shot put-48-2.75, took second in the javelin-145-8.75, and took third in the discus-143-4.5. At the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in North Carolina, Rivera claimed her second and third national titles. Rivera won the shot put with a PR 53-1, while taking the javelin title with a toss of 157-2. Rivera also took sixth in the discus with a mark of 149-3.
Rivera then competed at Hayward Field in Eugene, Or., at the USA Track and Field Junior and Senior Nationals. Rivera took second in the junior shot put with a 53-5.75, the best high school mark of the year nationally. The top-two finish earned Rivera a spot on team USA for the Pan Am Junior Games. In the junior javelin, Rivera placed seventh with a mark of 151-4. Competing in the senior javelin with the best collegians and professionals in the country, including DeSoto, Mo. native and Festus High School graduate and 2012 Olympian Brittany Borman, Rivera placed 16th with a best of 157-11.
Soon after, Rivera competed at the USATF World Youth Trials, with the top finishers qualifying for the Youth World Championships (17 years old and under), in Colombia. Rivera won the shot put and javelin to secure another spot on Team USA. Rivera threw the youth shot put 59-4.25 and the javelin 169-03. She also took seventh in the discus with a 138-10.
In July, Rivera competed at the World Youth Championships in Cali, Colombia. Rivera advanced to the finals of both the shot put and javelin. Just like at the Kansas Relays three months earlier, Rivera had to compete in two events at the same time, though this time it was at the World Championships. Rivera went back and forth between the events and ultimately came out with second place finish and silver medal in the shot put. Rivera threw the youth shot 58-10. Julia Ritter of Germany edged her by just under two feet. In the javelin, Rivera placed eighth with a best toss of 166-10.
A few weeks later, Rivera wore the red, white, and blue of Team USA for a second time, n Edmonton, Canada at the Pan-American Junior Games. Rivera earned a bronze medal in the shot put with a 50-4.
Sophia Rivera reflects on amazing 2015 junior track and field season:
Rivera’s not just a thrower, she played softball and basketball at Brentwood. Last fall, Rivera signed a national letter of intent to compete at the University of Wisconsin for throws coach David Astrauskas, who previously was the head coach at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
Sophia Rivera talks college choice and fun outside of track and field:
This year, Rivera returned to the New Balance Indoor National meet and placed fourth in the shot put in a very strong field. She posted a 50-1.25 and had an indoor season best of 52-0.
In December, MSHSAA announced it would hold the javelin and para events at the state track meets as exhibition events this year. The push to include the javelin in Missouri high school track and field has been led by the Riveras. Since Sophia’s freshman year, they have been in contact with MSHSAA officials, urging them to add the event. The work has paid off and Rivera will get to throw the javelin and post a record that could stand a long time. The top eight finishers in each class will receive medals, and their marks will count in the record books, but their teams will not receive points for the event yet.
Sophia Rivera talks about her 2016 track & field season so far, and what’s ahead:
Rivera got her senior outdoor season started at the Centre College Invitational in Kentucky in early April. She posted a 160-6 mark in the javelin there. Next, Rivera made the trip to the Los Angeles area to compete in the Arcadia Invitational, the premier high school only regular season track and field meet in the country. Rivera placed second in the shot put with a 48-1 and took fourth in the discus with a 143-10.
At her home meet, the Brentwood Invitational on April 18, Rivera posted her three best marks of the season so far. That included a launch of the javelin 180-4, putting her third on the all-time US high school list and qualifying her for the US Olympic Trials this summer. The mark would currently put her 11th on the collegiate performance list. Also at the Brentwood Invitational, Rivera posted a 51-5 in the shot put, and a 151-5 in the discus.
Sophia Rivera talks US#3 All-time 180-4 Olympic Trials qualifying javelin toss:
This summer, Rivera plans to compete at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals as well as the USA Track and Field Junior Championships and the Olympic Trials. She may also attend a javelin training camp in Finland as part of a group sponsored by the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation.
Despite the Olympic Trials qualifier, Rivera’s Olympic dreams will almost surely have to wait a few years. The Olympic qualifying standard is 203-5 and it’s unlikely Rivera will be able to improve to that point to be competitive at the trials and get an Olympic qualifying mark this summer. However if she stays healthy, Rivera seems like a good bet to be on the 2020 and 2024 US Olympic Team.