Sophomore hammer thrower nationally ranked in NCAA

Brooke+Pleger

Brooke Pleger

Dan Kotnik and Dan Kotnik

As the year of collegiate sports winds down and drifts into summer, one Falcon athlete gave the University one more thing to cheer about.

Brooke Pleger, a redshirt sophomore hammer thrower on the Falcon track team, finished her successful season with a trip the NCAA championships.

“It was really exciting to get the opportunity this year to go and compete for BG,” Pleger said. “I think as a program we’re trying to get moving in a direction where we’re moving forward each year. I think getting to the NCAAs showed that we’re [moving forward].”

Pleger started her season on the right foot with a first-place finish at the EMU Holiday Eagle Meet with a personal best throw of 193 feet. The record wouldn’t last long as she would throw a distance of 200 feet to win the Simmons-Harvey Invitational. She continued to outdo herself following the invitational at the GVSU Big Meet with a throw of 203 feet.

“She exceeded expectations this year,” Head Coach Lou Snelling said. “The fact that she can go through her first whole year, be as successful as she was and handle it all the way she did was extremely impressive.”

At the MAC championships, Pleger continued to succeed. She broke the MAC Championship record for the hammer throw with a distance of 216 feet to win the event. In the NCAA East Region Preliminary, Pleger became the first University athlete to win her event at the regional championship with a throw of 210 feet, qualifying her for the NCAA National Championship.

“It was a really nice step forward for our program to be represented at the national level again through Brooke,” Assistant Coach Matthew Conly said. “The visibility that comes with that means a great deal to our program. We had a tremendous ambassador in Brooke and the season that she had.”

The NCAA Track and Field National Championships were held in Eugene, Oregon, from June 5-8. Pleger was joined by fellow MAC throwers, Akron’s Brittany Funk, who was seeded eighth, and Buffalo’s Shant’e White who was seeded 19th. Going into the Championships, only one competitor in the field of 24 had out thrown Pleger, UCLA’s Ida Storm at the Mt. SAC Relays.

“It was incredible there, the amount of talent was insane,” Pleger said. “It was such a cool experience being around the best of the best in Division I track and field.”

Pleger entered the Championships ranked as the seventh seed. However, Pleger failed to repeat the same type of dominant throws she produced earlier in the season. Her best throw at the championship, 209 feet, was her lowest of the season.

“I was struggling to find feeling with the ball and I wasn’t really able to connect with any of my throws,” Pleger said. “I am a very technical thrower, and I rely heavily on entering the ball well. Unfortunately, on the day of the competition I was struggling to get my entry right.”

Conly said it has been a long season and it’s unrealistic to expect someone to throw extremely far every weekend.

“It’s a very long season and only a handful of girls are able to keep their training together for that long of a period of time,” Conly said.

Pleger’s throw of 209 feet, her lowest of the season, was good enough to keep her in seventh place at the end of the competition. By doing so, Pleger was able to earn herself the high honor of First Team All-American, making her one of the best hammer throwers in the country.

“As a program, it’s huge for us to have someone like Brooke,” Snelling said. “We know she’s going to set the bar pretty high for herself already, so we just expect her to keep getting better and see how far she can take it next year.”