Last year, Bowling Green State University’s Brooke Pleger struggled to master the mind game that comes
along with throwing the hammer for the Falcons track and field team.
Pressure often mounted, and in last year’s National Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Pleger let her
mind take over.
The two-time All-American folded. Admittedly, entering her final throw, Pleger gave up and settled for
Now a year older, Pleger, a senior, feels as if she has conquered the mind game. She will compete for a
national championship Thursday at the University of Oregon after finishing third last year and seventh
as a sophomore. She is looking to become Bowling Green’s first three-time All-American and first
national champion since Marny Oestreng won the floor exercise in gymnastics in 1999.
"I feel like it’s going to be my day. It’s my turn," Pleger said.
Pleger’s throw of 67.73 meters (222-2 feet) won the East Regional, which also bested last year’s national
champion Julia Ratcliffe of Princeton, who threw 66.46 (218 feet). The three-time Mid-American
Conference champion holds the nation’s best throw at 69.72 (228-9) with Kansas’ Daina Levy sitting
second at 69.01 (226-5). Levy’s throw came in the West Regional. Her previous best this season was
Pleger has broken numerous meet and stadium records along with setting the MAC record this year. She
holds the top 10 throws in BGSU history.
"This year has been different; I’ve been able to relax a little bit more," Pleger said. "I
think most of it is just because I have a different mindset in the sense that I’m confident in my
training and I trust that when I get to the day of the meet it will be there."
The feeling was not always there last year. During the national meet Pleger threw 64.48 (211-6) for third
place, while Ratcliffe threw 66.88 (219-5). Pleger had a chance to better Ratcliffe’s championship throw
but essentially gave herself no chance of winning.
"I distinctly remember going in for my last throw of that meet and mentally telling myself ‘it’s
over,’ she said. "I feel like I was more upset at that, and that was something that I worked on a
lot this year was just my mentality at meets.
"I was so bummed out with the way the meet turned out last year and I feel like we’ve just been kind
of working our butts off this year to go into nationals and have a completely different outcome.
"I was pretty bummed for a while," Pleger added of last year’s effort. "… I was kind of
over hammer for a little while. Because last year I felt like I put so much into that season and then
when I got to that meet I felt like in some ways I mentally gave up.
"The throw that won last year was a throw that I’ve thrown. It was something that I was more than
capable of doing. The way we had set up our training it looked like I was going to have a good day that
day. And the way that I was throwing I could have. I was throwing tense. I needed to relax."
Relaxing and being mentally stable has become almost second nature to Pleger, who holds eight of the top
10 throws in the nation this season.
Pleger entered the Jesse Owens Track Classic after what she called an atrocious week of practice, yet she
ended up winning in dominating fashion with a throw of 69.49, more than five meters farther than the
second-place finisher. Her throw set the meet and Jesse Owens Stadium record.
"The week of Jesse Owens I had really ugly days of practice the entire week," Pleger said.
"The day before I threw my heavy stuff and they were starting to come back up and then when I went
out to Jesse Owens I didn’t feel great but I knew I trusted that I was prepared to throw."
With her mind straight and all previous issues at bay, Pleger has a glowing confidence heading into
Thursday’s meet. Her performance at the East Regional while throwing in front of Ratcliffe gives her
another edge she said.
Pleger’s first throw in the regional meet was her only legal throw as she fouled on the final two, which
was more a product of simply seeing what she "had in the tank that day." Her warmup throws
prior to the meet itself were near 69 meters.
"I think (Ratcliffe) saw all my warmups and I know that it kind of got under her skin a little
bit," Pleger said. "I definitely think there is a psychological aspect. She’s coming out
trying to defend her title so she almost has a little more pressure on her, whereas I’m coming in just
trying to take it away from her."
And Pleger has every intention of taking that title.
"I feel like when you can get to the point where you trust what your coach is telling you and you
can trust your training, which I feel like that’s where I’m at now, it’s not as much of a mind
game," she said. "But I mean over the past couple years I’ve gone through a lot of ups and
downs and highs and very, very lows. Throughout all of it, it has been very mentally draining at times.
"Right now I’m in a really stable spot in training and where I’m at competitively," Pleger
said. "In what I’ve done this season I feel very confident where I’m at knowing the big throws are
there and they’re on their way."