The past two years have been a whirlwind for Eastern sophomore Zoe Goldberg.
Growing up, she lived and breathed soccer. So having played on the pitch for the first 10 years or so of her athletic career, she had dreams of continuing in the sport as she got older. But just when you think you know where you’re headed, life can throw a curveball.
Often what matters is how you respond.
Upon reaching Voorhees Middle School, Goldberg went out for the track team with her friends with the goal of being a sprinter, perhaps doing the 60-meter or 100-meter dash, something she thought would ultimately translate onto the soccer field when the fall season came back around.
Goldberg didn’t make the sprint team. Instead, after asking the coach to be placed elsewhere on the team, she found her way into shot put and discus in throws. So began Goldberg’s response to life’s obstacles.
“From age 10 and on all I did was really play soccer, so if you had asked me what I thought the future would look like for me, I would’ve told you I’d be playing soccer at Eastern [High School] and in college and even be a professional soccer player one day, that’s all I could see myself doing,” Goldberg said.
“But when I first went out for track, I did it because some of my friends did and, in truth, I only really saw it as a way to build up my endurance in preparation for the soccer season,” she added.
Just a few years later, Goldberg has made throwing at Eastern her own. Upon entering high school, she went out for the track team, and for the first time was able to do javelin. Only a sophomore, Goldberg has already heaved some pretty big throws despite her smaller stature and youth. So far, her personal record is 137 feet, 7 inches, accomplished at the West Deptford Relays earlier this season.
The toss, at that time, put her at the top in the state and in the top 25 all-time for South Jersey javelin throws. She made Camden County history, too; Meanwhile, Goldberg is about 11 feet short of the Vikings’ school record.
The marks that she’s hit in only her second year have been nothing short of spectacular, according to Eastern head coach Mike Tangeman.
“It’s simply amazing sometimes to see the marks that she hits at these meets, because it’s a discipline generally where guys or girls are typically better when they get to their junior or senior year,” he said. “It involves strength and explosiveness and things like that, so it’s rare to have someone throwing so far so early.
“It’s fun watching people’s reactions, to see them hear that she’s only a sophomore.”
In only the team’s first scrimmage freshman year, Goldberg hit 75 feet against Audubon, a moment that throws coach Alec Sherman remembers vividly. At that point, he was immediately aware that Goldberg was going to be an athlete to watch. As both seasons progressed, the coaching staff’s expectations for what Goldberg could accomplish at year’s end have constantly evolved.
“After that first scrimmage, we were ecstatic,” Sherman said. “She threw 75 feet her first time out … We couldn’t wait to see where it went from there. By the end of the season, she had made it to the Meet of Champions and was hitting 117 feet. It just felt like, and still does feel like, she’s constantly one upping herself.
“At this point,” he added, “it’s hard to set numerical goals anymore, because she’s constantly surpassing them.”
As sectionals draw closer, Goldberg has stopped setting goals for herself in terms of distance. She knows what she can hit on a good day and is committed to throwing farther. But the added pressure of fixating on a specific distance is something Goldberg isn’t interested in doing.
Instead, she continues to enjoy her early success and looks forward to what might be in store.
“If you had told me before the season that I would’ve hit the marks that I did in the first two weeks, when they were honestly my end goals for the season, I wouldn’t have believed you,” she said.
“If I was still focusing on goals in terms of distance, I might lose that sense of fun that javelin has given me the past two years,” she added, “because you can only hit new marks for so long.”
Goldberg has since quit soccer and took up volleyball in the spring before focusing on lifting and training during the winter before track season. It wasn’t long ago when she saw soccer as her main athletic focus, but after the past two years, it’s safe to say javelin is where she’s most comfortable.
“It felt like a difficult decision at first, but I quit soccer so that I could commit more time specifically to track,” she explained. “Giving it up, although it was tough, was definitely for the best, because javelin has just swept me away.”