Idaho sophomore Mia Sylvester is a throwing sensation

Feb. 8—Idaho sophomore Mia Sylvester has climbed the track and field ranks in rapid succession, with her hurl of 61-feet, 5-inches in the weight throw on Jan. 27 at the Podium in Spokane, she shattered a 21-year-old school record.

Sylvester continued to up the ante when the Vandals returned to the Podium a week later. With a toss of 65-7, she broke her record by more than four feet.

All told, Sylvester has one school record, was named the Big Sky Conference's indoor female freshman of the year and notched a gold medal finish in the shot put at the Big Sky's indoor championships on Feb. 25 with a toss of 51-6 — good enough for No. 3 in Idaho's record books.

That's not a bad resume for an athlete with a little less than a year and a half of college experience.

Sylvester first entered a throwing cage in 2019 and quickly found success, notching a first-place finish at the U-18 Central American Games in the shot put.

The Belmopan, Belize, native began her athletic journey as a volleyball player and even helped her alma mater, Belmopan Methodist High School, win a national championship in 2019.

However, it was on the court where her potential as a thrower was realized.

"I had a coach who saw that I had talent with my hands," Sylvester said. "He saw my wrist speed and hand speed and suggested we try out shot put, and it didn't go well at first."

The results weren't immediate for the reigning Big Sky freshman of the year, but they happened quickly.

After working out the kinks, Sylvester captured gold for the first time in El Salvador and was 11 centimeters shy of notching a countrywide record.

From then on, there hasn't been much standing in her way.

Sylvester finished her high school career with two more gold medals at the Central American Games in the discus and shot put, respectively, in 2022.

The high school standout admits college competition has been more mentally taxing than the Central American Games. But it has taught her valuable lessons in the process.

"You have to push harder," Sylvester explained. "That's what helped me — not putting too much pressure on myself and having more fun."

Sylvester maintains an optimistic persona and says, "If you come to Idaho, you'll see me dancing, enjoying life."

She credits her often-positive demeanor to her relationship with her family, the Vandals' coaching staff and her athletic trainer.

"Every day, even when I don't think I'm good enough, they support me," Sylvester said. "My athletic trainer helps me smile and keeps my head up even when I'm having bad days. We talk about the negatives and positives, and that helps me believe in myself and not think negative thoughts all the time."

When it was time to explore options to further her athletic career, Sylvester's agent informed her that the Vandals were interested in the Central American throwing sensation.

She bought in pretty quickly because of UI's mission statement and wasted little time making the trek to Moscow, enrolling during the '23 spring semester and immediately beginning competition.

"It's been a pleasant surprise in the sense that you see potential when you are recruiting, and a lot of that is potential," Cawley explained. "The ability to execute and pull through says a lot about her. She didn't have any fall training last year and was learning events and came in with just discus and shot put experience. Her talent and strength to figure things out and get comfortable have been exciting to watch."

UI's throwing coach, Kelsey Betthauser, who is also in her second season with the Vandals, has been instrumental in Sylvester's development.

"Kelsey has done an incredible job coaching her," Cawley said. "Their relationship has continued to grow even after just a year and a half. They talk through things, and if you have a great coach, you see great results, and Kelsey has done a great job."

Cawley highlighted Sylvester's adaptability and overall humanity as stand-out traits that have led to her success.

"She's a good human being," Cawley said. "She has a great sense of humor. She's fun to be around at practice, she fits the team really well and her intelligence is what we're looking for; she's a trifecta. She's highly intelligent, has a great sense of humor and is fun to be around."

As for future goals, Sylvester aims to represent her home country, Belize, in the 2028 Olympics.

"We don't put expectations on her because she's going to break them," Cawley said. "She's going to learn so much about herself, not just as an athlete but on all fronts. It's been fun to watch all that come together, and I wouldn't be surprised if she breaks more records and wins more championships."

Pixley may be contacted at, (208) 848-2268 or on Twitter @TreebTalks.