Derry’s Mazzoni wins javelin championship at New Balance Nationals

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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | 4:36 PM


What does it take to become a national champion?

For javelin thrower Sophia Mazzoni, it was hours upon hours of training that propelled her to one of the highest mountaintops in all of track and field: placing first in the New Balance Nationals on June 16 in Philadelphia.

The Derry rising senior blew away the competition with her astounding third throw that soared 156 feet 11 inches — 16 feet farther than the runner-up finisher. Each of Mazzoni’s other three throws at the event would have been enough to secure the title, also.

“My experience at New Balance Nationals was something to definitely remember, It was amazing,” Mazzoni said. “I felt on top of the world. … Having my family there, and my friends at home watching me online made me feel so supported as a Derry athlete.”

Mazzoni takes pride in her strong work ethic, an ever-present determination to improve her strength and technique that she said made her a champion. It has been a long time coming.

“As I train with (throwing) coach (Dave) McNichol, staying consistent in the gym and on the runway is a huge deal,” Mazzoni said. “Throwing softballs or tennis balls to get in that motion is even great. The strength I’m building in the weight room has helped me majorly.”

Winning and setting records are nothing new to Mazzoni. Aside from the New Balance Nationals, she took first place at each of the 17 meets she competed in this season, including breaking records at the United Invitational, the Butler Invitational and the WPIAL Class 2A championships. At the PIAA Class 2A championships, she set her personal record and the Derry record of 161-10.

“What it takes to become a national champion is to stay humble and confident no matter what,” Mazzoni said. “Pushing away bad energy and just focusing on yourself and what you want is huge. It takes patience, also. I have bad practices and bad reps, but at the end of the day, just work harder than yesterday.”

Mazzoni’s success has not just rewarded her; she also has inspired people in the Derry community. Derry track and field coach Mark Curcio, for one, greatly appreciates Mazzoni’s accomplishments.

“People were crying because they were so happy for her. If you look for schools that have a state champion, it’s not something that happens on a regular occasion,” Curcio said, referencing how people felt after Mazzoni won the state title. “Seeing her succeed at such a large event puts Derry on the map.”

Crucial to Mazzoni winning nationals was McNichol. He was an accomplished javelin thrower as the 1994 Westmoreland County Coaches Association champion. McNichol said Mazzoni’s javelin skills allowed him to advance her progression rapidly.

“I didn’t have to go back and correct common errors with her, but we are still far from perfect,” McNichol said. “We just focus on little tweaks now that help improve her overall throw and javelin flight.”

The improvement Mazzoni has made since her freshman year personal record throw of 125 feet and six inches has been remarkable. In her freshman year, she secured 10 first-place finishes to go along with two thirds, finishing 10th at the state championship.

“That year, she vowed to never miss the podium again,” McNichol said.

She followed with a personal record of 147 feet her sophomore season and a second-place result at the state championship. She tallied 18 wins that year and also broke the Derry school record set by Kara McDonald in 2017 (137-9).

Mazzoni has shown routine dominance, earning first place 45 times out of the 52 meets she has attended.

“Sophia is someone I don’t have to wonder if she’s doing the little things. Getting better at something isn’t about what you do at practice, it’s about what you do when no one is watching,” McNichol said. “She’s driven to be the best and has the work ethic to continue to work when I’m not around.”

Mazzoni has a busy summer waiting for her before she enters her senior season at Derry. She will compete at the Garden State Track and Field Club meet in New Jersey and at Javfest in East Stroudsburg.

“I am looking to break their javelin records,” Mazzoni said. “I just scheduled my visit with Notre Dame in September and am very excited for that. As I am still talking to several coaches, I will see where the rest takes me this upcoming fall.”

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