Pleger rises to national stage (06-04-13)
Written by JACOB BEVERLY Sentinel Sports Writer
Tuesday, 04 June 2013 08:16
Brooke Pleger has risen to the top of the national stage for the Bowling Green State University women's track and field team this season.
|BGSU's Brooke Pleger is seen in the ring with a hammer. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
The redshirt sophomore is seeded seventh and ranked fifth in the nation in the hammer throw. She will compete in the NCAA championships Wednesday in Eugene, Ore. The hammer throw is the first event of the national meet.
"I knew I was going to have a good season this year, I knew physically, this was my second year with my coach, so our training from all of last year was going to start to show this year," Pleger said. "I knew it was going to be a fairly successful year, but I didn't really expect it to go as well as it has been."
Twenty-four athletes are competing in the hammer throw. Pleger's throw of 210-1 was the best in the East regional, but six competitors threw further than that distance in the West, including top-seeded Chelsea Cassulo of Arizona State. Cassulo threw 229-11 to win the West.
The Mid-American Conference's outstanding field athlete of the year, Pleger's top throw is 219-9 this season.
Even though she has qualified for nationals and it is a monumental accomplishment, Pleger wants her trip to mean more. She wants it to pave the way for future success.
"It's exciting, I'm hoping that me going this year will inspire the rest of the girls to want to go," Pleger said. "Hopefully, this is kind of the start of our program turning and heading into a better direction."
There is no question that this trip to nationals will mean a lot to the Falcons' program.
"To be able to represent the whole program and school at the national meet is really valuable for our entire program," said BG throwing coach Matt Conly. "As far as exposure, it helps recruiting and not just the throwing but the entire program."
Seeded second entering the regional and with expectations set high, Pleger edged out the competition for a first-place finish.
"Going into regionals, the point is to move on to nationals, so I expected to do that, which I did," Pleger said. "It wasn't my best meet of the season. It was actually my worst meet of the season, but no one really threw well. It's a really high pressure meet because if you don't get top 12 you won't go to nationals no matter how good of a season you've had."
Due to the dominating year Pleger has been having, regionals was not the tough part, even with the pressure. It was the sitting and waiting for the next throw that was tough. Which is why Pleger and Conly had been preparing for that situation all year long.
"We knew the regional meet, as long as she was healthy, was kind of a test match," Conly said. "We talked a lot just about the format, being prepared to sit around and wait."
With the first-place finish, Pleger became the first BG athlete in eight years to qualify for the NCAA outdoor track and field national championships.
"It feels good," Pleger said. "I didn't really realize up until after it already happened that I was the first one in that long."
Pleger also has the chance to be the first All-American for BG since high jumper Stephanie Heldt in 2001.
"I throw and I do this because I love it," Pleger said. "I don't really think about breaking records. I don't really think about all that stuff, I just think about moving my mark and improving for my team."
Since qualifying, Pleger has been training in preparation for the nationals. She has been training her body her whole career for this moment, but she's not just physically ready for nationals, she's mentally ready as well.
"This year I feel like I've taken a big step in terms of me feeling mentally prepared for meets and me feeling confident going into meets," Pleger said. "I feel like this year when I go to meets and I see my competition, I know that I can beat them, I know that I'm a good enough thrower to the point that if I have a good day, anything could happen."
Until actual competition starts, Pleger will be trying to try to keep her routine normal and stay calm and collected in order for her to achieve her goals.
"I don't have any superstitions. I try not to think about it too much just because I get all worked up in my head," Pleger said. "A lot of times the night before, I'll watch video. We have a YouTube channel so I'll watch some of my previous throws. And occasionally I've looked up some of the girls I'll compete against and I'll watch them throw so I kind of know what I'm going to be seeing. But other than that I like to kind of just lay low and not think too much into it or else it makes me nervous.
"My big goal there is to have a good day and to compete with everyone else. I mean I would love to walk away a national champion, but there are some really good hammer throwers that are there and with hammer it's anybody's day. I could have the best day of my life and everyone else could have the best day of their life and I could still come in like seventh."