MIRAMAR, Florida — University of Missouri freshman Ava Curry found her stride on the last javelin throw at the USA Track & Field U20 Outdoor Championships, held June 21 to 23, at Ansin Sports Complex. That winning stride will take her to Costa Rica and the U20 Pan American championships in mid-July.

However, throwing during the contest didn’t start off well. Mizzou coach Brett Halter said the first throw of the competition was one of her poorest.

“She didn’t panic because that first throw was the worst to the final throw, which was that winning throw,” he said. “It’s a huge deal. Ava has competitive integrity. As an athlete, you can be a super athlete by the stopwatch or tape measure, but there’s more to it.”

Curry said those under 20 could compete at the Florida tournament. She met her future teammate, Skylar Ciccolini, during the event. Ciccolini finished second in the event with a throw of 158-0.

Ciccolini, the 2019 Pennsylvania State Champion and New Balance National Champion in the javelin, posted a personal-best mark of 184-2 at the Penn Relays Carnival in April. The throw ranks as nation’s top prep javelin mark this season, ranks ninth in the world on the U20 list and is the second-best mark ever recorded in U.S. high school history.Curry took home the top spot in the event on Friday, producing a 160-5 to punch her ticket to Costa Rica. The throw was Curry’s second-best of the outdoor season, trailing her mark of 166-6 at the Texas Relays on March 28, which ranks third all-time in program history.

Curry’s high school track coach was Ken Peek at Liberty North. Her mother, Sarah Curry, said Peek helped her daughter gain success in javelin while in high school.

“He is a great coach and attributable to where she is today,” Sarah said.

Halter agreed. He could tell with Ava that her high school coaching was the right foundation.

“Ken Peek really taught her well with a season of March to May,” he said. “Ava hunkered down and listened. She was a multisport athlete. I could tell she had the prerequisites. She has a great arm that was shaped in softball, plus she has a full understanding of the javelin technique. She has grown to be a better and better competitor.”

Ava said in about a year she went from 135 in high school to averaging in the low 150s.

“My personal record is 166,” she said. “I can believe that all the training has paid off. It’s an intensive training schedule. We have practice every day and weightlifting three days a week. In high school, it was three months. Now, I have been training since August full time.”

Ava said breaking the 160 barrier has been a goal she has been working toward and to hit it twice represents the hours of hard work.

“I have been really staying focused,” she said. “I stay attuned to what I am doing. My knowledge is growing and I know what I should be doing. I want to be able to repeat it in competition mode.”

With the many indoor and outdoor competitions, Ava said she is not superstitious, but rather keeps her head and stays confident.

“My end goal is to be a NCAA national champion,” she said. “I have that chance.”

Halter said Ava is a great fit on the college track and field team.

“Ava may be ranked fourth or fifth in the northern hemisphere,” he said. “She is at the level now where she is climbing the mountain and the air is getting thinner. She is not at the top of the mountain yet, but she has three more years to reach it and the sky is the limit. More importantly, the championships in Costa Rica means she gets to wear the colors and represent the country. I’m glad to head to the games. I wouldn’t miss that. It’s going to be exciting to see Ava become one of the team leaders in the near future.”

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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