Four-time Class 4A state champion shot putter Jace Rivera is now a first-time state champ in the discus.
The Belen High School senior earned the elusive title in the discus Friday morning at the University of New Mexico Track and Field Complex with a throw of 171-9.
“I didn’t really expect to win,” Rivera said. “But I thought I could do decent if I threw well. There’s no such thing as a sure thing. It feels good to finish what I started at the beginning of the year.”
Rivera, who progressed from third place two years ago to second last year, won easily this year, outdistancing Aztec’s Hayden Boyce by seven feet.
Winning the event capped off what has been a remarkable high school career for Rivera, who plans to attend Colorado State University next year. It’s been done before, but rarely does an athlete win four state championships in one event, as Rivera did on Thursday when he put his name in the record books by winning the shot.
“He’s been a great competitor for four years,” said Eagle head coach Kevin Benavidez. “His freshman and sophomore years, he wasn’t supposed to win it. These last two years, he’s just been so much better than everyone else.”
Each one of Rivera’s shot put titles has been significant. Nobody expected him to win as a freshman, but he beat all the bigger boys. He won in a most dramatic fashion as a junior – having to better his best effort by two feet on his last throw to earn the title. He did by mere inches.
His win last year was less spectacular, but, still, he made it three. And not only did he make it four this year, but he broke his own Class 4A record with a chuck of 57-7.
“I would have liked to go a little further, but it’s alright,” he said. “It was good enough.”
Rivera had thrown the shot as far as 59-4 this season and said his goal was to break 60 feet.
“It might have been better if he was up against a little better competition, to push him past that point,” Benavidez said. “Because that’s when he’s really good.”
Hayden Boyce was again Rivera’s closest challenger. His best toss was five-and-a-half feet short of Rivera’s mark.
In other state track and field action involving Belen athletes, the Eagles’ 400-meter relay team qualified for Saturday’s finals by winning their qualifying heat on Thursday. Nick Carter, Derick Jaramillo, Robert Rimorin and Rodney Harrison will be the fifth seed in the finals, after finishing in an official time of 43.93 seconds.
“They were smoking. That’s the fastest time that we’ve had run in Belen the last five years,” said Benavidez, who had them clocked at 43.6.
The Eagle relay team will run in the finals at noon on Saturday.
Also advancing to the finals on Saturday was Lady Eagle eighth-grade sprinter Keita Torres. Torres clocked a time of 12.81 and will be seeded fifth in the finals on Saturday. Torres also ran the preliminaries of the 200 late Friday (no results were available at News-Bulletin press time).
In other action on Thursday, hurdler Emily Schultz ran a 16.64 and finished eighth in the 110 meter hurdles. Only the top seven athletes advance to the finals, so Shultz will have to wait until next year. Schultz finished only nine-tenths of a second from going to the finals.
The Lady Eagles had two athletes competing in the pole vault. Junior Jessica Braswell placed fourth after clearing nine feet. Sophomore Alicia Taylor did not place after failing to clear the opening height.
Junior Sherwin Price finished in a tie with Kirtland Central’s Chris Manning for fifth place in the boys high jump. Price cleared 5-10 before his knee gave out while attempting to clear six feet. Price’s highest jump coming into the meet was 6-2.
“I don’t know what happened,” Price said, “I have tendonitis in that knee, and it just gave out.”
Price, who is a junior, was disappointed but also optimistic, saying, “There’s always next year.”
On Friday morning, sophomore Stephanie Sanchez threw the javelin and finished in 11th place overall with a toss of 108-6. Lady Eagle head coach Jim Edwards had nothing but good things to say about Sanchez’s effort.
“She improved on her personal mark by two feet,” Edwards said. “I’m proud of how well she threw.”
Yet to compete for Belen is sophomore Jocelyn Chavez, who is a second seed in two events. She’ll contend in the triple jump at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and the high jump at 1:30 p.m.