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Chico State

Josie Peterson Takes Aim at Chico State’s Record Books

An athlete in a Chico State track uniform prepares to throw a javelin.
(Jason Halley/University Photographer)

On April 1, 2023 at the famed Cobb Track and Angell Field at Stanford University, Chico State sophomore Josie Peterson launched her final javelin attempt through the air. When it came down 43.16 meters later, it landed her in the Chico State record books with the fifth-longest throw in Wildcat program history. That throw, which was the third-best at a meet full of Division I track and field athletes, was the catalyst for a fantastic season that saw Peterson win the javelin event at five meets, including the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Championships. 

Peterson knew she got off a good throw at Stanford because she felt no pain after releasing the spear, which typically indicates a technically sound throw. But as she watched and waited, she wasn’t sure how good it was until she glanced over and saw her throwing coach, Zak Stroing, celebrating wildly on the sidelines and heard screams of excitement from her teammates from across the track. 

“That throw was a great moment and something I take great pride in. I remember calling my parents and crying on the phone,” said Peterson. “It was such a big deal to hit the provisional mark in the big meet against D1 athletes. It set me up to revisit my goals and strive for even more.” 

What’s remarkable about Peterson’s successful sophomore season for the Wildcats is that she had never touched a javelin until her freshman year at College of the Redwoods. Clearly a natural athlete and a fast learner, she placed second in the javelin at the 2022 California Community College Championships and ranked third in the event nationwide while competing for Redwoods. 

While throwing the javelin wasn’t in her original college plan, Peterson has always been an elite athlete.  She was a standout volleyball, basketball, and softball player at St. Bernard’s Academy in Eureka and competed in volleyball and basketball in addition to track at Redwoods. She planned to continue a collegiate volleyball career after Redwoods until her sudden success in the javelin. Peterson credits her experience in other sports for picking up what she called a “somewhat random event” that requires speed, upper body strength, and technique. Success came to her quickly. 

“I played all over the diamond in softball but ended up in centerfield because of my strong arm and was an outside hitter in volleyball, which requires a lot of upper body torque and power,” she said. 

Stroing, who works with Peterson every day, agrees that her natural athleticism and ability to throw the javelin really hard are important. He also points to her mindset and work ethic as keys to her success.  

“The javelin is such a difficult event to learn, not just physically, but mentally. Some days it just refuses to fly for you,” said Stroing. “Josie is able to take the bad days in stride and use them as fuel for her fire. It has been a pleasure to watch her grow as an athlete and see her competitive mindset mature and develop as she becomes a force to be reckoned with.” 

Peterson is quick to point out that she learns something new every day about competing in the javelin and has set her 2024 goals even further with an eye on the Chico State school record. 

“I’m coming into the season with a distance goal of 46 meters, which would reach the provisional mark to get me into the DII National Championships,” said Peterson. 

Peterson, leaning on her background in multiple sports, isn’t quite ready to become a specialist either. She also throws the hammer and has set a goal of becoming more competitive in the event this year (she set a new personal record of 42.38 meters in an early 2024 meet). Finally, she stressed the entire women’s track team all have the shared goal of winning the CCAA Championship, something they fell just short of last year. 

It was her teammates and coaches who drew Peterson to Chico State. She had been in contact with Head Coach Oliver Hanf before committing to Chico and learned quite a bit about the program from Eric Wright, her coach at Redwoods who is a Chico State alum. During her initial recruiting visit, she fell in love with the campus, the town, and the culture and traditions of the track program. 

Speaking of her teammates, Peterson said, “they are 100 percent great people that I will love forever. I made the right decision [to come to Chico State] and don’t have any regrets.” 

Peterson is double majoring in psychology and communications. She plans to graduate in May 2025 and is considering going to grad school and perhaps pursuing a career as a child or sports psychologist. 

That gives her two more seasons at Chico State to chase records and her goals, and hopefully set off more wild celebrations at collegiate track meets across the state.