Rivera wins 2 more, opts out of shot put
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
For the past four years, Sophia Rivera has been raising eyebrows with her accomplishments at the Class 2 state track and field meets in Jefferson City. Heading into last weekend, she had won three consecutive state titles in both the shot put and the discus throw.
But on Saturday Rivera raised eyebrows for what she didn’t do. After winning the discus and javelin throws on Friday, she went to Brentwood for graduation that evening but did not return to Jefferson City for the shot put on Saturday. An article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch stated that she made the decision Friday evening after the graduation ceremony upon consulting with her private throwing coach, Ron Eichaker. Rivera was not injured, her mother said in the article, but made the decision based on how to best prepare for the U.S. Olympic trials in July. She qualified for the trials in the javelin throw last month.
Brentwood head coach Scott Long learned of Rivera’s decision on Friday night. Asked if he was disappointed about not getting to see her win one last state title, he replied, “Oh, of course. The opportunity to be a four-time state champion in two events is pretty rare. I know she wanted to be here.”
More than rare. No Missouri high school student has ever won two events four years in a row. But of course, a high school meet cannot hold a candle to the Olympic trials. And she certainly had nothing to prove in the shot put after setting the all-time state meet record in it last year.
On Friday her discus throw of 138 feet and 1 inch beat second place by over 20 feet. Her three attempts were 111-4, 138-1 and 137-10, and she passed on her last two.
“She just came out and defended her discus title for the fourth time,” said BHS assistant coach Robert Findley. “There was an empty spot on the podium [during the awards ceremony] but they did a nice job of announcing she was off to graduation, which was pretty cool.”
Her winning javelin throw of 134-6 was 46 feet short of her best, yet outdistanced second place by 21 feet. The event was offered as an exhibition, so medals were awarded but no points.
Rivera graduated as the most successful athlete in BHS history, with eight state championships: four in the discus, three in the shot put and one in the javelin throw. She has the Missouri record among all classes in the shot put.
Her javelin throw of 180-4 at the Brentwood Invitational on April 18 is the longest in the U.S. by over 20 feet this year and the third best ever in the U.S.
400-meter relay goes nuts in prelims
Brentwood’s sprinters generated some excitement as well. Kaylon Jenkins anchored the fourth-place 400-meter relay team and the sixth-place 800 relay, and took sixth in the open 200. His relay mates were Jacob Clay, Deshaun Johnson and Justice Harris.
The 400 relay team recorded its best time of the past two seasons with 43.80 seconds in the prelims. Though that time would have won state for them last year, they entered the finals seeded third.
“You could tell it was going to be a good race from the beginning,” assistant coach Robert Findley said of the prelims. “The kids had a goal of getting under 44 and they ran a 43.80.”
Brentwood ran a 44.49 in the finals, more than a half-second slower than in the prelims, Deshaun Johnson said he felt slow coming out of the blocks.
“I was looking around and somebody was holding everybody else’s blocks and I was assuming somebody would come up and hold ours, but they were saying ‘Get set in your blocks’ so there was nothing I could do at that point,” Johnson said. “I knew I wasn’t taking off as fast as I should have been. We probably could have placed third or second if I had come out of the blocks better. … But it’s an improvement on how we did last year so I can’t be too upset.”
When the Brentwood Spirit asked a meet official, who was working at the start of the sprints, why nobody held Brentwood’s blocks, he said Jefferson City High School was responsible for staffing the meet and had been “less than stellar” in doing so compared to Lincoln University, where the meet has been held in recent years. However, he said the starting blocks should have been solid even without a holder.
Asked if he had noticed a slow start, Long said, “To be honest, no, we didn’t notice that, and if we had there’s nothing we could have done because Rob [Findley] and I were up top with cameras. But we looked fine, we came out just fine. It didn’t seem to hurt us.”
Surprised to be in 800 relay finals
Johnson, Clay, Harris and Jenkins surprised one another by qualifying for the finals in the 800 relay. Their 1:34.24 in the prelims was eighth best among 16 teams.
“We didn’t run a very good four-by-200,” said Clay. “We ran a 1:34, definitely not a PR. None of us thought we’d get in [the finals] but we snuck in.”
In the finals their 1:33.64 was good for a sixth-place medal.
“At least we weren’t last,” said Clay a few minutes after the race. “We didn’t get a very good lane [No. 8]. You’re way out in front of everyone and then you have this huge curve.”
Jenkins in 200 and 100
Jenkins placed sixth in the 200 in 22.85 seconds. His 22.95 in the prelims made him sixth among 16 entrants.
Jenkins ran 11.60 seconds in the 100-meter dash prelims, which placed him 11th among 16 runners. The top eight made it to the finals.
“I’m tired,” he said after the 200, the last of seven races he had run in two days. “I’m not sad about any of this; I think we ended on a high note. But I am tired. I might get some Chick-fil-A.”
Boys, girls each place 26th
In the Class 2 team standings, the BHS boys were 26th out of 53 schools, with 11 points. They were the second best school from the St. Louis area, behind only Cleveland NJROTC. Rivera scored 10 points to put the BHS girls in 26th place out of 45 schools. The only St. Louis schools that beat them were Barat and Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience.