Hackensack High School (Stephen Mozia)
Like bees hovering around their nest, more than 100 throwers, sprinters, jumpers and fans swarm around the cage for this season’s Bergen County Group A discus finals. Stephen Mozia, hands-down the best of the best, is scheduled to compete and no one wants to miss the show.

It’s been rumored that the Hackensack shot put and discus ace can is larger than a freight train and can chop firewood using just his hands. Some say his throws can even stop the Earth’s perpetual motion. The spectators who are hoping to catch their first-ever glimpse of Mozia, however, are confused. They see athletes in Hackensack’s traditional navy and gold garb, but the fabled giant they seek is nowhere to be found. The whispers begin.

“Where is the Mozia kid?” said one puzzled onlooker.” The big guy from Hackensack. Did he throw yet?”

“Which one is he?” said another. “I thought he would be easy to find.”

Inconspicuosly, Mozia sits quietly along the fence. Headphones blaring, he is hidden among the puzzled onlookers.  He hears the whispers, but to him, it’s all background noise. He’s in the zone.

As the final group begins warmups, an unassuming Mozia enters the circle first. He’s tall and lean, but  finely chiseled and wears the intense expression of a warrior. With a perfect blend of grace and power, his body uncoils in an exposion of kinetic energy. He spins, yells and releases the discus farther than most in attendance believe is humanly possible.

The toss is met with applause. Everyone has been officially acquainted with Stephen Mozia.

“I hear people at meets asking each other if they know which one is Stephen Mozia, and I’m standing right there,” he said. “It amuses me sometimes. I guess they can’t believe it’s me because I’m so small and don’t look like a typical thrower.”

Mozia, a senior, is anything but typical. An ordinary thrower does not re-write the school’s annals with such ease, nor does he chase cherished county and individual meet records on a consistent basis as he does.

He’s been on the rise ever since his first season as a freshman. Looking back on those days, Mozia pokes fun of himself, especially when he remembers joining the team as a sprinter.

“I was a little slow,” Mozia recalled. “I was also kind of goofy.”

This self-awareness prompted Mozia to switch disciplines and pick up throwing after a bit of encouragement from his friend, who saw his potential to be an excellent thrower.

“When I first picked up the shot, I thought ‘wow, this is really heavy,’” Mozia recalls. “So, in my first year, I mainly threw discus. As I got stronger, then I started to throw the shot. I wasn’t great in either event.”  

Mozia topped out at 28 feet in the shot put and 99 in the discus in his freshman year, but he’s come a long way since those days. When he finally puts a stamp on his high school career, he will leave with the school record in winter shot put (62-11 ½), spring shot put (61-7) and spring discus (187-11). His highs, each established in his senior year, rank in the top 10 nationally for 2010-11 and go down as some of the top high school heaves ever in New Jersey.

“It just clicked with me a couple of days ago, that I have every school record for throwing. I still can’t believe I’m a record holder in a huge program, and half of our school records are county records,” Mozia said, noting that his best recorded discus toss of 189-2 isn’t considered official since it was achieved at a dual meet.

Even with those astronomical marks, Mozia keeps his head planted firmly on his shoulders. He knows continued success is contingent upon his dedication to his sport.

“I’m always working on my technique,” Mozia said. “I’m in the weight room everyday at practice, and I always want to get some throws in. When I’m at home, I’m not going to weight lift, so I’ll just work on my technique.”

Despite being at the pinnacle of his craft, Mozia  admits that he has much to learn about throwing, an indication that even greater legends are still in the making.

“I’m better at the [shot put] glide today, but I still don’t get it,” he said with a laugh. “I learn something new when I do it and when I spin. Even Olympians don’t get it all the time. People think I have perfect form, but if I did I would be throwing 300 feet. No one actually has perfect form; you just try to be as perfect as you can. You just have to keep working hard.”

Mozia has worked as hard as anyone else on his team to accomplish the goals, many of which he sets for himself before the season starts. In fact, Mozia said he has met all but one of his personal objectives - the only outstanding mark being a 200-foot toss in the discus.

“It’s so close. I’ve done it once or twice in practice, but that doesn’t count,” he said. “But when you do it, it’s the best feeling in the world. Your body is like a whip, exploding out. I played football and had a big hit, and you can make the shot in basketball, but those don’t feel as great as throwing the discus.”

Mozia’s support network understands his passion and is equally engulfed in it. From friends and family to teachers and his fellow calculus classmates, everyone wants to know how he performed at meets. The modest and humble Mozia said he is the product of that environment, and so often gives the Hackensack community something to remember in exchange.

“Sometimes when I’m walking home, I’ll practice my spin. I won’t do it all the way back to my house, but I go through the motions a few times,” Mozia said. “It might look funny to see someone spinning on the sidewalk so I always make sure no one is looking.”

Mozia might escape the spotlight on his journey back to his house, but when he’s in the throwing circle, you can guarantee that everyone is watching.
 
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