For the last three years the reputation of Jace Rivera has been circulating throughout the state of New Mexico. High school shot put and discus throwers all over the state fear this human catapult.
Rivera opened a lot of eyes when he won the state title in the shot put in 1999 as a freshman. He repeated the feat as a sophomore and again as a junior. Now, as a senior, Rivera is attepmting a most rare feat — four Class 4A state titles in a row.
Such a daunting task could be nerve wracking and could keep some people from sleeping at night, but Rivera talks about it like it’s just another season.
“There’s really not that much more pressure this year,” Rivera said. “As long as I do good, I’ll have a chance this year.”
Though he managed to win the state title in the shot put, Rivera said he was disappointed in his performance last year. After changing his throwing style from the slide to the spin technique, things weren’t exactly falling into place for him.
“All of last year was erratic,” Rivera recalled. “Things could have been a lot better last year. I just had to break some of my bad habits. This (the spin) gives me a lot more distance, but it is a lot harder to learn.”
Eagle head coach Kevin Benavidez said Rivera, who was an All-State honorable mention football player as a junior, possesses a natural ability as an athlete. And he has made the most of it. “The thing about Jace is he’s worked harder than anybody I’ve ever had,” the coach said. “His strength level goes up every year — he works at it.”
In an effort to improve on last year’s “disappointing” season, and overcome an ankle injury that sidelined him for most of the football season, Rivera has worked extra hard in the off-season and is coming into this year more ready than he’s ever been. The goal of a fourth-straight state shot put title is at the top of the list, but he has other goals in mind as well.
For one, Rivera would like to add a state title in the discus to his trophy case. He finished third and second in the event the last two years, respectively.
“He probably should have won it the last two years, but it just didn’t happen for him,” Benavidez said. “I think he really wants to get a state championship in that one too.”
The coach said Rivera is also motivated by the chance of attracting a college scholarship. At 6-foot-3-inches, 230 pounds, Benavidez said, Rivera has the tools to do it.
“He’s as big and strong as ever,” Benavidez said. “I’m hoping, and he’s hoping, that somewhere down the line he can get a state record in either the shot or the disc. He’s definitely capable of it — it’s just a matter of him keeping focused and perfecting his technique.”