Pleger targets national championship in hammer throw
by Jason Knavel, Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Communications
Jacksonville, Fla. – Bowling Green State University senior Brooke Pleger will return to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field National Championships for the third time after setting meet and stadium records to earn a bid Saturday at the NCAA East Region Preliminary Round at the University of North Florida.
Although Pleger threw six feet shorter than she did two weeks to win her third Mid-American Conference hammer throw championship in record-breaking fashion, she still threw the 222-feet-2 – four feet further than Princeton's defending national champion Julia Ratcliffe – to claim the meet record. Ratcliffe (in 2014) and Virginia Tech's Dorotea Habazin (in 2011) had shared the previous mark at 221-6. That performance by Ratcliffe had also stood as the stadium record before Saturday.
"Brooke came here with the goal of moving on to the next round," BGSU Track & Field coach Lou Snelling said. "Her maturity and experience was evident today. She had a solid game plan and she executed it well. This was her best performance at this meet and that comes from having been here twice before."
Pleger wasted little time earning her spot to the NCAA Championships, throwing her only fair toss of the day on her first attempt. Ratcliffe worked her way into second place by improving on each of her three throws, going from 210-11 to 211-5 and finally to 218-0. Winthrop's Marthaline Cooper was the only other competitor to reach 200 feet, finishing a distant third at 200-5. The top 12 finishers all earn bids to the national championships and that list includes two other Mid-American Conference throwers in Kent State's Jackie Leppelmeier (sixth place) and Akron's Alexis Cooks (eighth place).
The performance by Pleger is another strong effort in her career at regionals. In her first appearance, as a sophomore in 2013, Pleger had the top throw at 210-1. Last year, she was second with a throw of 216-2.
While Pleger will look to become the first female three-time All-American in school history, her opportunity is even larger than that. After placing seventh at the national championships in 2013 and third in 2014, she will be the favorite to win the title this year. BGSU has not had a national champion since gymnast Marny Oestreng won the floor exercise in 1999 and no female track and field student-athlete has ever won a title. Pleger's third-place finish a year ago is the best ever for a BGSU track and field competitor.
"We are excited for her to go to the NCAA Championships for the third time," Snelling said. "With the expectations and goals that she has for herself, Brooke's experience from previous trips will be huge."
In total, Bowling Green sent four competitors to the NCAA East Region Preliminary meet. All four Falcons equaled or bettered their seed entering the meet. In Snelling's four-year tenure at BGSU, the Falcons have competed 13 times at the regional and student-athletes have equaled or bettered their seed 12 times.
At the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field National Championships, the hammer throw will take place June 11 at 4:30 pm (EST). The top 12 finishers from the east region and the top 12 finishers from the west region will compete for the crown.