All it took was one championship throw.
When 122-feet, 3-inches were measured off at El Camino College back on May 11 in Torrance, Aquinas High junior Noelle Chavez had herself a CIF-Southern Section Division 4 championship.
“I know it hasn’t happened all that often at Aquinas,” said Chavez, who became the school’s second-ever CIF track & field champion.
It’s even more lonely than that.
“The real hard part,” she said, “is that there’s no one to practice with. There’s a small pool of people (at Aquinas).”
There were no discus/shot put teammates at Aquinas. Track’s a lonely sport to begin with.
Lonely at the top?
She finished first -- at the top.
She’s the only discus thrower from Aquinas.
Plus, there’s no real expert-level throws coach which covers the discus and shot put.
A couple years back, Chavez’s “cousin,” Rachel Aguilar, set a personal best 129-foot, 11-inch effort at the 2017 Arcadia Games -- one of So Cal’s top prep invitationals.
As much as anyone knows, that’s an Aquinas school record.
It’s not, said Aquinas coach Lorenzo Mota, who watched that 2017 Friday night effort and watched the wrong number get posted. It was really 118-feet, he said.
Said Mota: “Next thing I know, they recorded it as 129 feet and that was wrong. I’ve been trying to get that changed ever since.”
All that loneliness just attracts Chavez to fellow competitors at the meet. “We’re friends,” she says. “We see each other every week, or so. It’s good to get together.”
In fact, she’s got a cheerful outlook on the horizon.
Chavez’s dad, David Chavez -- a high school wrestler and baseball player -- sought out a throws coach for his daughter. He came up with University of Redlands throws coach Andrew Clarey, who has worked Noelle Chavez for the past 18 months.
All of a sudden, a college athletic career is on that horizon, “something I never knew would even be possible,” said Chavez.
Occidental College, an NCAA Division III campus next to Pasadena, came calling in recent weeks. Those smaller schools are always seeking under-the-radar talent for their programs.
No track program is more under-the-radar than, perhaps, Aquinas.
Occidental? All of which would fly directly in the face of Clarey.
A couple weeks back, Clarey mentioned college to her. Though there’s still a full senior season left, a Chavez-to-Redlands connection seems inevitable.
“I’d never go to Occidental now,” she said. “It’s nice to know that someone’s out there that wants you.”
Her sheer development can be easily spotted from her frosh season when, teammates with her cousin, Aguilar, she popped a season-best 79-1 at an Ambassador League meet.
Aguilar, by the way, isn’t really a cousin.
“My dad’s side of the family,” said Chavez. “We’d been buddying around. She told me to come out and try out for the team.”
Two weeks later, Aguilar, then a senior, won the 2017 league title (121-2). In fourth place with a 75-5 effort was none other than Chavez.
Bit by bit, Chavez stayed with it, finally cracking 100-feet in late 2018, eventually grabbing sixth place at CIF Division 4 finals that season (109-5).
“She’s come a long way,” said Mota, the seventh-year Aquinas head coach.
This past season, her marks kept creeping up. It helps, said Chavez, “that our league isn’t very competitive.”
That Division 4 field isn’t all that competitive, Chavez noting that CIF’s lowest level didn’t provide a single entry into this year’s Masters field.
She will improve.
Said Clarey: “Consistency and just being told what needs to be worked on are what made a difference for her.”
Chavez says she’s going from a glide-step approach to a full-rotation, which takes time and patience. “It’s super-hard,” she said, “time consuming and mentally frustrating.”
“She put some serious time in the weight room,” said Mota, “to work on building her strength.”
Now that she’s a defending CIF champion, the switch has been pulled. Discus, not to mention the shot put (for which she also holds the school record), will likely see much higher numbers by 2020.
“A hundred 50 feet,” she said, noting her discus goal for next season.
Any shot put number improvements are bound to follow. Figure on 40-feet, perhaps.
A note about Aquinas’ school records: Mota says he’s got no real data from previous years.
“The (athletic director) before this one (Chris Ybarra) didn’t leave anything. The (track & field) records have been lost.”
It’s a commentary on how well Aquinas — its past contributors and participants mostly — has regarded the sport.
Chavez is flying. She wants into next year’s Arcadia Invitational field, which includes the illustrious of prep track & field athletes.
She can’t wait.
“She still did well in the shot put,” said Mota, noting her eighth place Div. 4 finish.
Chavez, aided by Clarey, may well launch a bid for that event by next season. Clarey, incidentally, has stood over the development of University of Redlands’ shot putter Reyna Ta’amu, who shot to national prominence with an improvement of over 10 feet over a two-year development.
Ta’amu reached 50-11 this past season at an indoors meet.
Mota’s got the dream and the plans for 2020: “Break 130 (she says 150), qualify for Arcadia Invitational, qualify for CIF-SS Masters and, hopefully, the state meet.”
“I’m not waiting for the (2020) season to start,” said Chavez. “I’m hitting it hard starting this summer … 100 percent.”