When it comes to hurling a 12-pound steel ball through the air, La Joya Palmview’s Felipe Valencia is considered by many to be the best in the state. Valencia will have the opportunity to prove them right at the shot put competition in the state track and field meet in Austin tomorrow.
After taking home the silver medal at state just one year ago, then sophomore Valencia proved that he was already among the best of the best. As this year’s top ranked 5A putter in the Lone Star State and with the district, area and regional championships already under his belt, Valencia needs just one more win to bring Palmview High School its first state championship. Lobos’ head boys track and field coach Margarito Requenez helps put this in perspective.
“It will mean a lot if he wins,” said Requenez. “This school has only been open five years and having the first state champion ever would mean a lot. It’s been a while since La Joya ISD has had a champion.”
There has only been one state champion from La Joya ISD in track and field competition; that was Noe Hernandez, who took home the gold medal in the 880-yard run in 1968. In an interview with the Progress Times this week, Hernandez, an avid supporter of track and field at La Joya, said he is planning to be at the state meet this weekend in hopes of witnessing Felipe’s entry into the track and field record books first-hand and being able to congratulate the young athlete on his history-making accomplishment in person.
At 5 foot 7 inches tall and 230 pounds, Valencia has grown accustomed to going up against competitors almost a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier. Even so, he has made a habit of winning and winning consistently in what is normally considered to be a big man’s sport. How is this possible? According to Requenez, it comes down to an intangible, which cannot be measured or weighed.
“It’s his love for the sport. Anybody with size can go up there and throw the shot put, but it takes heart and a love for the sport to be as successful as he is,” shared Requenez.
In his second year as Felipe’s throwing coach, Sebastian Duque shared similar sentiments about the secret to his star athlete’s success.
“In Felipe I see a young boy that has grown into a young man,” said Duque. “His maturity level as far as his work ethic and his commitment to the sport is surpassed by none. He loves what he does, he’s always been a hard worker and his parents have done a good job of instilling that in him. As a matter of fact he calls me to tell me that it’s time to practice so he’s got a great work ethic and I see that improving as he gets older.”
Having competed at the state meet last year should give Valencia an advantage over much of his competition this weekend. Even with the added pressure of being the top ranked putter in the state, Felipe is planning on enjoying his return to Austin.
“Entering the state meet last year I was ranked second,” said Valencia. “That helped boost my confidence because I knew that I would be able to compete at that level. This year I’m going in as number one and that is very exciting and I’m ready to compete and have fun over there.”
As impressive an accomplishment as it was for Valencia to have qualified for state in the shot put, he had planned on being a two-event qualifier. However an uncharacteristically poor performance in the preliminaries of the discus throw at the regional meet eliminated him from the finals.
“I had a bad day in the discus at regionals,” explained Valencia. “My technique and my release were both off. It happens to the best of us and that day was just not my day. I ended up scratching on all three of my preliminary throws so I failed to make the finals.”
With the shot put competition coming after the discus throw at the regional meet, Valencia didn’t have time to dwell on his poor showing in the discus. Instead he focused on the job at hand and threw the best throw of his career to claim the regional championship and solidify his statewide number one ranking. His throw surpassed last year’s gold medal winning throw at the state meet by more than four feet.
“My best throw at regionals was 62 feet,” said Valencia. “All this season my goal was to pass 60 feet. I had three throws over 60 feet at regionals, so my confidence is up and my goal now is to throw 65 feet at state.”
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.