Rivera Represents U.S. at Meet in Havana

Sophia Rivera, third from left on the front row, poses with her teammates in Miami on June 11 before flying to Havana, Cuba.
Sophia Rivera, on the front row, third from left, poses with her U.S. teammates in Miami before flying to Havana, Cuba. The team of high school track and field all-stars was sponsored by the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation. This photo appeared on Facebook.

She wins shot put on American all-star team

 
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
email: bowmansj@sbcglobal.net

School record holder. State champion. State record holder. And now … ambassador.

Sophia Rivera poses with her three medals in Havana. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Hassemer)
Sophia Rivera poses with the three medals she won in Havana. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Hassemer)

Brentwood High School student Sophia Rivera is on a track and field team that recently became the first group of American athletes in nearly 20 years to compete in Cuba.

On Saturday she won the shot put and took second place in the javelin throw and third in the discus throw at the Caribbean Scholastic Invitational in Havana. She was on a team of 28 U.S. high school all-stars sponsored by the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation. They competed against some of the best high schoolers from Cuba.

Held annually since 2006, the meet is an opportunity for U.S. high school underclassmen to compete against students from Caribbean nations. It has taken place in Puerto Rico in recent years but was moved to Havana over the past six months with improvement of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. The countries resumed diplomatic ties last December after more than 50 years. Two months ago the White House announced it is removing Cuba from the American government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

‘Nation’s most dominant female thrower’

The last time the U.S. sent athletes to Cuba was 1997, according to a June 10 article on the track and field website Milesplit.com. The same article calls Rivera “the nation’s most dominant female thrower” and “the most versatile thrower in the United States.”

American and Cuban athletes pose together for a photo that showed up on Facebook. Rivera is on the left side in the middle of the group.
American and Cuban athletes pose together for a photo that showed up on Facebook. Rivera is on the left side in the middle of the group.

Rivera’s winning throw in the shot put on Saturday was 48 feet, 2.75 inches. Her personal best of 51-1.75 is ranked No. 3 in the U.S. this year.

Her second-place throw in the javelin went 145-8.75. Her best of 175-10 is ranked No. 2 in the U.S.

Rivera won third place in the discus throw in Havana with 143-4.50. Her all-time best of 154-9 is ranked No. 17 in the U.S. this year.

The annual Caribbean Scholastic Invitational gives U.S. athletes a taste of competing internationally. That’s something that benefits Rivera, who wants to make it to the Olympic trials in 2016 and to the Olympics in 2020. She certainly got a taste of international travel. She and her teammates flew to Miami on June 10, flew to Havana on June 11, competed on June 13 and returned to Miami on June 14.

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