Sixteen-year-old Sophia Rivera is one of the best young throwers in the United States. At the recent World Youth Trials, she put the 3k shot 18.09m, the 500-gram javelin 51.60m, and the 1k discus 42.32m. She placed first in the shot and javelin, and will represent the United States in those events in two weeks at the World Youth Championships in Cali, Colombia. In addition to being an outstanding thrower, Sophie is also a fine student and a very articulate young lady.
Currently Sophia Rivera is ranked No. 3 in the entire world!
1. Kristina Rakočević 18.56m
2. Julia Ritter 18.51m
3. Sophia Rivera 18.09m
The gold medal will probably be fought between this trio:
Here is a transcript of a conversation we had at the World Youth Trials.
Dan McQuaid: Sophia, where are you from?
Sophia Rivera: Brentwood, Missouri.
Dan McQuaid: And how long have you been throwing?
Sophia Rivera: Since I was about eight.
Dan McQuaid: What got you into throwing?
Sophia Rivera: I actually started throwing in New Jersey, back when we lived there. I was doing soccer at the time, and then my parents wanted me to get a little more diverse, and so they put me in track. My best friend was doing it, which just made it that much better. And then the coach needed a thrower, so he got my best friend to do it and I wanted to throw with him. So, I started throwing with the Turbo Jav and about a week into it I was throwing farther than the guys.
Dan McQuaid: How long did you do soccer and track together?
Sophia Rivera: Up until freshman year. They were in separate seasons, but now at my school soccer is in the spring and so is track, and so freshman year I had to choose.
Dan McQuaid: So you do track year round now?
Sophia Rivera: I play softball in the fall and basketball in the winter, so I always stay busy.
Dan McQuaid: And you will continue playing three sports during your upcoming senior year?
Sophia Rivera: Yes. I know once you get to college basically you do your one sport. And I know a lot of people who have gotten burned out playing one sport in high school and continuing with it in college. Doing three sports makes track even more fun.
Dan McQuaid: How big is your school?
Sophia Rivera: Two hundred and sixty kids.
Dan McQuaid: So they must really appreciate it that you do three sports.
Sophia Rivera: Yes. Actually, my basketball coach lives right on my street so…
Dan McQuaid: …he would egg your house if you didn’t play basketball.
Sophia Rivera: Yes.
Dan McQuaid: And in the summer, how do you balance the three sports? Do you do softball and basketball camps?
Sophia Rivera: In the past couple of summers I’ve done basketball camps, but this summer I’ve been busy traveling around. In fact, I haven’t been home in a month.
Dan McQuaid: You’ve not been home in a month!?
Sophia Rivera: No. I started off by going to Cuba for the Caribbean Scholastic Invitational. And then from there I trained in Georgia for a couple of days, and from Georgia we went to the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina, then to Oregon for the Junior Nationals, and from Oregon to here. Tomorrow we are headed home. I get two days at home, and then if I get selected for the Youth Worlds (Editor’s note: she did) off to Columbia.
Another Note: At the New Balance Nationals, Sophie won the javelin (600 grams) with a toss of 47.91m, won the 4k shot with 16.18m, and finished sixth in the discus with 45.51m. At Junior Nationals, she finished second in the 4k shot with a put of 16.30m and seventh in the javelin (600 grams) with a throw of 46.14m.
Dan McQuaid: When you were in Cuba, did you get to see any of the Cuban discus throwers?
Sophia Rivera: We got to compete against their youth team, and the day we had the track for practice their national team was practicing so we got to watch them. It was crazy! And wherever we went there, the Cubans embraced us. At the meet, they sang their national anthem and ours in succession and it was really touching.
Dan McQuaid: What about weight training? Do you have time for it throughout your busy season?
Sophia Rivera: No. Actually, I haven’t started lifting yet. I’ve never lifted. A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that.
Dan McQuaid: I’m one of them.
Sophia Rivera: Usually I do a bunch of medball work and work on technique and a good amount of taking throws with the shot, disc and javelin.
Dan McQuaid: How do you balance the three different events in practice?
Sophia Rivera: Usually we do the heaviest to lightest, so we do shot put first then disc or javelin. We throw all of them two or three days a week, and on the other days we focus on just two events.
Dan McQuaid: Do you throw different weight shots or discs?
Sophia Rivera: No, so far we have been pretty true to just staying at weight, so the 600gram javelin, 4k shot, and 1k discus. This summer I’ve had to train underweight for the javelin and shot.
Dan McQuaid: Does it feel strange to throw the light shot in meets like this?
Sophia Rivera: Very. The problem I had and a lot of people had was keeping it back because it’s so light you just want to arm it and muscle it out. But today I was able to keep my shoulders back and keep the shot put back until the right amount of time, so I had a couple of good throws.
Dan McQuaid: I’m a big fan of the fixed feet, short/long glide. And to me, that’s what you do. Do you have a shot put role model? Someone whose film you study?
Sophia Rivera: I try to watch a lot of film. One person, obviously, is Michelle Carter. I try to get a little bit of my technique from her because how can you not? She is the greatest glider ever, dare I say. And I was lucky enough to be able to actually see her throw at Eugene a couple of days ago, and that was really inspiring.
Dan McQuaid: Are you coached by a track coach at your high school?
Sophia Rivera: No. He is a private coach. He used to be a javelin thrower himself. He loves the sport with a passion, and knows tons about it. His name is Ronald Eichaker. He really knows his stuff.
Dan McQuaid: Do you feel like your shot put style owes a little bit to the javelin?
Sophia Rivera: Yes, very much so. I think mostly in my block. My finish in the shot put is reminiscent of the javelin. The reason I haven’t been doing the spin—and a lot of people tell me I should spin—is because it is so counterintuitive to the javelin. With the glide you have that same linear motion and you get that nice block where you want your hips to come first and your arm to come last…there are a lot of little similarities.
Dan McQuaid: And you drive right to left like in the jav?
Sophia Rivera: Yes.
Dan McQuaid: Well, you have an excellent glide. Don’t listen to the people who tell you to spin. There is still room for great gliders in this world! So, this summer you will be competing in Colombia, and then what else is going on?
Sophia Rivera: I made the Juniors team, so I will be going to Edmonton, Canada for Pan Am Juniors. I had a great PR there as well at 53’5 ¾”, I believe it was. Everyone was just competing for second because Raven Saunders was there, but it was an amazing experience.
Dan McQuaid: Will you get a break before softball season starts in the fall?
Sophia Rivera: Probably not. But my softball coach is very understanding. She is also my math teacher, and she came out to see me today. I’m sure if I haven’t gotten a break when the season starts she will give me one.
Dan McQuaid: What is your favorite subject in school?
Sophia Rivera: I kind of like everything, really. Sorry to all my English teachers, but English is not my favorite.
Dan McQuaid: You know what I do for a living?
Sophia Rivera: Are you an English teacher?
Dan McQuaid: Yes.
Sophia Rivera: Sorry.
Dan McQuaid: No prob. I’m going to hammer you in this interview now. What will you study in college?
Sophia Rivera: I’m not sure. I’m trying to keep my options open. It ranges from something like business to physical therapy to law.
Dan McQuaid: On what will you base your college decision?
Sophia Rivera: My top couple things are that the team feels like a team, not just individuals. Also, academics is actually number one. No matter what I study I want to have a good degree. I want to be able to get a job after because you can only throw for so long, but you are a citizen and a person for much longer.
Dan McQuaid: Indeed you are.
Sophia Rivera 51.60m with the 500 gram javelin:
Sophia Rivera 18.09m with the 3kg shot: