ENCINITAS — A 12-year-old Cardiff girl, who picked up a javelin for the first time four months ago, is heading to the USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships next month in Sacramento.
Since March, Mikayla Pieratt has launched a promising athletic career in the sport, throwing a personal best of 31.78 meters to win her age group at the Region 15 Junior Olympic Championships on June 23 at Orange Glen High School in Escondido.
Pieratt’s first-place throw — three meters farther than the next competitor — also punched her ticket to nationals.
“It’s been really fun to be successful,” Pieratt said. “It’s a new, fun challenge. I was at one of my first meets for track, and I saw the younger kids doing it… I saw it and thought, ‘I can do that.'”
The young athlete is involved in several sports, including playing catcher for a local softball team and competitive sprinting with Speed Evolution Track Club based in Solana Beach.
For this year’s outdoor track season, Pieratt decided to compete unattached with her newfound skill. Over the past four months, the young javelin thrower has placed — usually in first — bringing her through each round leading to the July 25 games at Hornet Stadium.
“She is so motivated and diligent in the discipline at such a young age, I know she’s gonna do an excellent job,” said Coach Jasmine Burrell.
Burrell, a San Diego State University throwing coach (javelin, hammer, shot put, discus) and decorated NCAA track and field athlete, took over coaching Pieratt from dad shortly after she picked up the spear.
“We didn’t know what we were doing,” she said.
Pieratt trains daily, working hard to get better for her next competition. Burrell said she encourages the young athlete in a fun, learning environment. However, she could see Pieratt had the early signs of throwing promise.
“I thought, ‘Oh, she’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with,'” Burrell said after a meet-and-greet with Pieratt several months ago.
The javelin throw is a track and field event where athletes throw a metal-tipped spear — about 2.5 meters long — for the longest distance. In this ancient game dating back to 708 B.C., athletes throw the spear over their shoulders and must strike the ground with the tip of their spear to complete a valid throw.
“It was one of those recreational things that she was trying out,” Burrell told the Coast News, adding that Pieratt’s mother, Jennifer, came to track her down on Instagram for a coaching query. “She happens to be really good at javelin.”
Burrell coaches other athletes in various divisions and age groups. She said that younger athletes should always be free to try any sport that interests them.
As athletes get older, they “will naturally gravitate” toward a particular sport, Burrell explained, but when they’re 12 — like Pieratt — it’s all about fundamentals and having fun.
Burrell also encouraged more athletes and sport-lovers to engage in track and field — a sport sometimes overlooked due to costs. However, Burrell said there is tremendous talent brewing in the games.
“Track and field is one of the greatest sports of all time,” she said, adding, “I encourage everyone to start paying close attention to the things that are going to transpire … from young kids at USATF level to … the adaptive athletic, for the Paralympics. That’s really big, and people don’t know they exist.”
The youth national championships will be held from July 25 through July 31 at the California State University’s Hornet Stadium in Sacramento.