Cuba's Chavez sets javelin state record
By Quentin Jodie
ALBUQUERQUE, May 10, 2012
(Times photo - Paul Natonabah)
T he sun was shining bright at last Saturday's New Mexico Class 2A state track and field meet.
But on that particular morning, things were looking even brighter for Cuba High javelin thrower Felecia Chavez as she set a new state record.
The diminutive senior pitched the spear 131 feet, 5 inches and beat the previous record of 130-11 set by Cimarron's Jessica Adams in 2004.
"I felt a lot of pressure because I was trying to go for that record," Chavez said. "But just hearing from all the different coaches, 'Let's get that record, let's get that record' gave me the confidence to do it."
Not only did she set the state record, Chavez also belongs to the rare class of athletes who have finished their prep careers as four-time champions. She earned her first two state titles in Class 3A and her last two in 2A.
"That's something special," Cuba track coach William Marino said. "It doesn't happen that often, but for a special kid like that, who has been throwing the javelin since she was a little girl, it's not surprising."
In the weeks leading up to the state meet, Marino said Chavez was throwing the javelin "just under 120 feet and at district (two weeks ago) she threw a couple of long ones and missed the record by seven inches."
So her goal last Saturday was to win another state title and try to set the record.
"I told Felecia to visualize it," Marino said. "But you know, all her teammates were there supporting her and I think that definitely helped her.
"To my knowledge that is the first time an athlete from Cuba has held a state record," he added.
In the prelims, Chavez started her day with a throw of 123 feet, but in her final two attempts she just got over the 110-feet mark.
"I got a little discouraged with my last two throws," she said. "But I knew I could do this so I prayed and I gave it my all and - boom - it was out there."
And after she collected her latest hardware, Chavez couldn't help but reflect on her past.
"I've been doing this since I was eight years old," she said, adding that she chose the javelin because her older brother Cordeo Willeto did it.
"He got me interested in throwing," Chavez said. "We used to practice at home in Torreon before we moved to Cuba and then we started to compete in the Junior Olympics."
Through javelin, the 17-year-old senior has traveled extensively and competed in countless regional and national meets. And when she was 14 she won an international meet in Australia.
"It was like paradise," she said when asked about her trip down under. "I got to see the world with my meets and that was a good experience."
But one year after making that trip to Australia, Chavez had a benign tumor removed from her abdomen.
"I was scared at first," she said. "But when they told me that it was noncancerous I said let's just have the surgery."
That was 16 months ago, but her recovery on field took awhile since she had to rebuild all her stomach muscles.
"My throwing went way down," she said. "I had to work really hard to get back to where I was at because I was so weak in that area."
Nonetheless, she said it was bittersweet to set a new record.
"I'm glad that I was able to do that," she said. "I just hope it stays there for awhile."