Juan Contreras never had much of a passion for track and field in high school. The former Delhi High Hawk primarily played football, but he was persuaded by then coach Matt Cabral to put his strength to use by throwing for the track team his sophomore year. Delhi’s team was still growing at the time and any points were welcome.
Things changed for Contreras once he became a senior, however. A junior year marred by overwhelming defeat in both the shot put and discus had awoken a desire inside of the young man. His personal pride scratched at his insides and a newfound desire to establish Delhi as track and field contenders emerged. Contreras combined his desire with dedication, worked tirelessly in the weight room to build his body, and began to focus on his throwing technique.
In the end, his hard work paid off. Contreras and his throwing teammates became powerhouses in the Southern Athletic League and helped the Hawks claim their first ever SAL Championship. Through the achievement of his short term goal, Contreras also created a new avenue for his future as a collegiate athlete.
“That’s the year I actually took it to heart,” Contreras said. “I saw that I had a lot of room for improvement my senior year; I knew I had more in me.”
That realization spurred Contreras to try out for California State University, Stanislaus’ throws coach Ryan Viera as a walk-on. Though it seemed like a long shot, the Delhi alumnus put forth his full effort and was rewarded with a spot on the team—an unexpected pay off for a small school kid who had only recently considered collegiate throwing as an option.
“I personally didn’t think I was going to make the team,” Contreras admitted. “I just feel good about it. I love the team and I always have a good vibe coming to practice; my teammates are awesome.”
“He’s got a lot of interest and he’s put in the work, and that’s number one for me,” Viera said.
Contreras is now the only walk-on athlete on his throwing team and has three competitions under his belt. Along with the shot put and discus, Contreras has taken up the hammer throw—an event which has emerged as his best. Though he had no experience with the hammer throw prior to joining the Warriors, his rawness has been an advantage as it has allowed Viera— a former collegiate thrower himself—to develop his technique from the ground up.
“It’s basically a shot put with a wire and a handle, and it’s really hard,” Contreras explained with a chuckle.
With his current personal record at around 140 feet, Contreras is working with his coach to perfect his timing, footwork, and overall technique in time to reach 170 feet and qualify for this summer’s National Junior College Athletic Association Tournament—a tournament for freshman athletes from around the country and across all competitive levels. The pair is also preparing for the upcoming California Collegiate Athletic Association Track & Field Championships which will be held at Stanislaus May 2-4.
“Typically it’s difficult, especially for walk-ons. But his speed is really good and he’s got fairly good strength for his size,” Viera said of the NJCCAA Tournament. “I’m also hoping to get him in scoring range for conference. It’s a tough year, but I see it happening.”
Contreras will continue his growth as a collegiate thrower this Saturday at the Johnny Mathis Invitational in San Francisco.
“Being competitive in conference is a main goal, but junior nationals are definitely at the top of my list,” Contreras said. “That’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”