Maria Deaviz's Rise Is Far From Over

Maria Deaviz remembers fighting back tears in North Carolina last summer. College coaches were coming up to her and the junior thrower from Souderton Area did her best to keep a smile on her face.

The Championship section of the shot put had just wrapped up at New Balance Nationals Outdoor in mid-June of 2019, and Deaviz, who only had about a week of training under her belt after an injury stripped her of part of her outdoor season, wasn't happy with her performance.

After posting shot put performances consistently in the 43-44 foot range for much of the spring, Deaviz tossed 41 feet, 3.25 inches to finish 22nd in the country after coming in as the tenth seed.

"I choked," Deaviz recalls. "I remember going in the car and just crying."

The disappointment of her nationals debut proved to be a turning point for the junior Deaviz. I never want to deal with this again, she thought as she sat in the car. What came next was a monster season for Deaviz, who honed in even more on her craft with a dedication that matched the results that came during the winter.

Like the rest of the country, Deaviz won't get a shot at an outdoor season to further cement her legacy in the throws. Regardless, the future looks bright for Deaviz---it's been a journey shaped by never losing sight of the "process" despite circumstances.

A little under a year ago, though, she was dealt a setback in the form of an injury on fateful day on the runway in an event she rarely competes in: the javelin.

Injury and disappointment

Deaviz was looking to score points for her team at the Suburban One League (SOL) Continental Conference Championships. After taking a close second place finish in the discus on Friday afternoon, Deaviz returned on Saturday morning set to compete in the javelin.

"I was feeling pretty tight," she said. "I don't normally throw jav, nor do I train for it, really. I didn't have a good warmup with it."

Her hamstring felt tight on her first few attempts, and she eventually pulled out of the event after she realized she could barely rotate or even walk without pain. Her hamstring was black and blue.

Ultimately, Deaviz decided a week later to sit out the district meet, and therefore, the state meet, where she would have been a PIAA Class AAA title contender in both the shot put and discus. It was a decision rooted in a desire to stay healthy for the future.

"I didn't want to take a chance and gamble on my hamstring," she noted. "I was a junior and I knew I had another year and I didn't want to rush anything. Where I was at, I wanted my senior year to be my year and I didn't want to wreck anything."

While the injury and what followed proved to be a pivotal moment in her career, she learned one important lesson from it: "It taught me I'll never throw javelin again," she said through a giggle.

Deaviz took about a month off after suffering the injury and decided to compete at outdoor nationals. With minimal time to prepare, Deaviz didn't have her best day in Greensboro, North Carolina.

"Mentally, I was not ready," she said. "It was my first outdoor nationals, so I wasn't really happy with my performance. It was a growing point for me."

With the summer and fall to get ready for her senior year, Deaviz made some tweaks to her technique and hit the weights even harder. After the disappointment of the end of her junior season, she knew things would be different the next year.

When she made her senior year debut in early December, she didn't miss.

Putting the new mindset into action

Deaviz came out of the gates hard in her senior year. At the first DVGTCA meet of the season at Lehigh University, Deaviz popped a big early season performance with a toss of 47-10.75 to win the shot put. It was a put that was nearly two feet better than her previous (outdoor) best.

The major PR didn't come as much of a surprise to Deaviz, though.

"Coming out with a 47-10, I kind of expected it because I worked so hard during the summer," she said.

It was a busy offseason for Deaviz, who had a renewed dedication to the throws. She trained mostly out of Garage Strength based in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania. There, Deaviz received specialized training for her events.

Deaviz admired Berks Catholic's Keeley Suzenski's form in the circle and knew she wanted to emulate that. She found out Suzenski, who won the PIAA Class AAA state title in the shot put last spring and posted a high school best of 48-2.5, trained at Garage Strength and Deaviz showed up to get to work.

"I saw videos of my technique -- I was doing half turns in the circle. I laugh at it now because it was very embarrassing that I did that," Deaviz joked.

She stayed dedicated to the process and is now well-versed in the "spin technique" in the circle, something she started as a junior and has been improving upon ever since.

"I worked my butt off in training and understanding the technique and in the weightroom and especially in the circle," she said.

Just getting to Garage Strength, however, was no walk in the park. It requires an hour-long drive for Deaviz, who said she went to their gym 4-5 times a week during the winter. Most nights she would not get home until 7:30 P.M. at the earliest at which point she could eat dinner and get started on homework, leaving little time to unwind.

"That was my routine during the winter," she said. "We would change the weight of the shots and just focus on technique. It's a great environment up there for a determined athlete. I'm just glad that I'm a part of that program."

For Deaviz, it was all about getting used to that routine and suddenly the drive didn't feel so long.

"When you do something over and over again, it becomes normal. An hour drive for me is like a five minute drive because I'm so used to it," she said.

A 3-day stretch for the ages

After her hot start to the season, Deaviz had another breakthrough in the shot, that occurred during a stretch of two meets in three days.

AtShot Put Night In The Valley at Perkiomen Valley, Deaviz took over the national lead in the shot put. She tossed a best of 49-3, which overtook fellow PA shot putter Emma Callahan of Shenango for US No. 1. Deaviz's throw was also good enough for No. 4 all-time in PA history.

"Throughout the entire winter season, it bugged me so much that I was second in the U.S.," she said.

But just two days later at Lehigh, Deaviz outdid even herself witha legendary series at DVGTCA Meet #7. She bettered her own US No. 1 from two days earlier with her first two attempts, hitting 49-7.25 and 49-5.5.

"I was grooving," she said.

With no finals in regular season DVGTCA meets, she was looking to close out her series on an even bigger note on her third and final attempt. But after getting so close to 50 feet, it started to feel like almost more of a mental barrier than a physical one. Before her final put, she got a pep talk from her Souderton coach.

Deaviz's best throw of a season, a 51-10.75 at Lehigh

"Coach Feliciani came up to me and he said, 'why are you holding yourself back? Just go for it,'" Deaviz said. "I turned off my mind and I just let it go."

What came next was one of the best puts in American prep history. Deaviz hit 51-10.75, a PR by over two feet and the 16th best performance in US high school history.

"When I threw, I blacked out," Deaviz said of her nearly 52-foot bomb. "There was no one in the room at that point."

That throw moved Deaviz up to No. 3 all-time in Pennsylvania history indoors. She also leapfrogged one of her idols -- Payden Montana of Berwick -- in the all-time state rankings. Deaviz was a sophomore when Montana, who holds the all-time outdoor state record at 51 feet even, had her record-setting senior season.

"I looked up to Payden Montana and seeing her throw 51 at states, that impressed me," Deaviz said. "So now that I'm doing that, it's just crazy."

Deaviz's stellar senior season kept rolling after that. A week later she hit the 50-foot mark again with a 50-6.25 to win the Philadelphia Public League Invitational at the Armory. Then on March 1, Deaviz earned her first state title.

Deaviz reeled in some pre-meet nerves and won the state crown in the shot put at the PTFCA Indoor State Championships. She got progressively better in her state meet series, closing out with a best of 50-0, topping Montana's meet record set two years prior.

It seemed like it was just the beginning for Deaviz.

'A little bump'

It was supposed to be a relatively quick turnaround for Deaviz, who was ready for New Balance Nationals Indoor at the Armory, where she came in as the heavy favorite. Her top seed mark was almost four feet clear of the second seed.

But Deaviz never got her opportunity to go after her national title.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced the cancelation of the meet just two days before the action was scheduled to kick off at the Armory. Suddenly, Deaviz's dream indoor season was over.

"It was a hit," Deaviz said of when she first heard the news of NBNI's cancelation. "At first, reality didn't kick in yet. I refused to believe nationals was canceled."

But soon thereafter, Deaviz, like much of the track and non-track world, grasped the full scope of the situation. On April 9, the school year -- and with itthe 2020 outdoor track and field season -- was officially canceled in Pennsylvania due to coronavirus.

"Throwing is my life and for it to be taken away, it hurts, but at the end of the day, athletes need to understand, this is the world. This is not just a track," she said.

But it's not in Deaviz' nature to dwell on the circumstances for long. Instead, she is just back to work. Or rather, the work never stopped in the first place.

Deaviz's winning put at the PTFCA Indoor State Championships (50-00)

"I'm still training," she said. "I'm still throwing in the driveway. I've got some weights downstairs, so I'm still lifting. I'm still talking to Garage Strength. I'm listening to podcasts. For me, it's just another offseason that we have to work through and train through."

Of course, like the rest of the athletes in Pennsylvania and beyond that will be missing out on their spring seasons, Deaviz is still experiencing quite a bit of disappointment. Deaviz was among the top returners in not only the shot put, but also the discus, an event that she said is coming together well for her.

But Deaviz is quick to input some of her own optimism.

"It's a title that I won't have," Deaviz added. "It is what it is. This is a little bump that everyone has to go through and then at the end of it, I believe everyone is going to come out of this wanting it more, working harder, and when we come back, that is going to be a season to watch for sure. So I'm excited for that."

That "season to watch" for Deaviz will come at the University of Virginia. After visiting Charlottesville in November, she knew almost immediately it was where she wanted to spend the next four years of her life. She verbally committed to the Cavaliers just a week after her visit.

True to form, Deaviz had recently chatted with UVA's throws coach Martin Maric and she was already talking about her collegiate career: "I want it all. I'm going all-in," she told him.

"I saw what the University of Virginia could provide academically and athletically, and it was just everything," Deaviz, who is part of a big contingent of Charlottesville-bound PA girls, said.

The Souderton senior said she filled out a men's March Madness basketball bracket last year, correctly picking the eventual champion, UVA. 

Perhaps one of the best aspects of Virginia? The facilities. Sure, they're nice, but the travel distance will be a major perk for Deaviz, who won't have to make the 30-plus mile trek west to Garage Strength every day.

"I don't have to drive an hour!" she said with a laugh.