University of Akron hammer thrower Brittany Funk is all about setting goals.
But when the goals she set didn’t pan out, she had little problem readjusting. For her, it wasn’t a bad thing.
She opened the outdoor season looking to set a personal best of 210 feet. Two weeks into the season she was at 205 feet. Reassessment and longer distance were needed.
“I would have to say good coaching and hard work — showing up every day and doing what I need to do,” she answered when asked how she improved her overall hammer distance by 20 feet in a matter of weeks.
Ask her position coach Brian Forrester, a 13-year veteran of the Zips coaching staff, and the answer is simple.
“The training came together and there was a high level of motivation to beat another competitor,” Forrester said as Funk prepared for practice Wednesday morning. “We were at home and things just came together. Sometimes there is no super explanation for things.”
Indeed, that might be the case because competition is a very simple thing and it certainly played its role motivating Funk. She qualified in the hammer throw for the NCAA Championships next week in Eugene, Ore., courtesy of her second-place finish in the MAC Outdoor Championships.
Bowling Green’s Brooke Pleger won the event with a throw of 216-3 to Funk’s 214-6. It wasn’t the first time Pleger bested Funk in the event and that motivated Funk.
“The rivalry with Brooke is intense,” Funk said. “We are friends, but we both want to win. Starting the season out after the first couple weeks her [personal record] was farther than mine and still is and that pushes me in the circle and in the weight room to be that much better. Having someone better than me has always pushed me to compete at their level.”
But her sources of motivation don’t stop there. Funk is chasing former teammate and friend Stevi Large, who at the time she won her national championship in the hammer throw was only the third athlete in UA history to achieve that feat. They communicate still via social media and Large is aware of how Funk is doing.
But as much an impetus as those two factors might be, her strength has to come from within. And she’s made the decisions that allow her to succeed. Among the most significant was concentrating on the weight throw during the indoor season and the hammer during the outdoor season.
“I really didn’t make any improvements out of shot put and discus, so [Forrester] was like, ‘We’re just going to put all of our eggs in one basket and go with the hammer and see how that works.’ It seemed to work out,” she said.
Then there was the hard work she put in to improve her performance indoors.
“I’m an outdoorsy person, so I love outdoor season,” Funk said. “Up until this year, I hated indoor because I wasn’t very good. Then Coach switched my technique. Once you become good at something, you like [it] because before I wasn’t a big fan of it.”
The result: She made All-America second team in the weight throw, according to the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
Track and field is considered a team sport for the sake of classification. But that’s not the case. It’s solitary and Funk realizes that she controls her destiny. That’s why she spends any free time she has in the offseason working out in an effort to get better. She doesn’t show any signs of slacking.
“You can do that in a team sport, but you can’t do it in an individual sport. It’s too apparent,” Forrester said. “It’s you versus your personal best or you versus other people.
“In order to go to the national championships it doesn’t take 10 other people like in football. You only have yourself to blame when you get there. You get more benefit from your own hard work.”
Funk will see if that hard work continues to reap benefits next week.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at https://ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.