Sports

Bears have their eyes on state | Track and Field

Tucker Mjelde, a senior at Tahoma, soars over the fifteen foot standard earlier this season. He is currently ranked first in the state - Photo courtesy of Boomer
Tucker Mjelde, a senior at Tahoma, soars over the fifteen foot standard earlier this season. He is currently ranked first in the state
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Boomer's Photography

Tahoma High seniors Brock Eager, Tucker Mjelde and Denham Patricelli agree that competing at a high level in the field events of track and field requires one thing: technique.

“You can’t just run and go high,” said Mjelde, who competes in pole vault. “Your run is the most important part — your run and the plant.”

As the postseason kicks off this week with the South Puget Sound League North 4A meet, the threesome — all of whom are ranked in the top 10 in the state in their respective events — have their eyes on the state meet two weeks from now.

Patricelli, who was the state champion in javelin last year, is looking to defend his title and maybe break the school record javelin throw of 230 feet while he’s at it.

Finding his throwing talent almost didn’t happen for Patricelli. He signed up for the track team in eighth grade because he had a broken finger and couldn’t try out for the baseball team. He had participated in track before, but hadn’t planned on it becoming a part of his high school experience.

“I like how it is totally independent,” Patricelli said of throwing the javelin. “I like how javelin relies on the work that I put into it.”

He missed part of his sophomore season and most of his junior season due to injury and requisite Tommy John surgery.

To date, his personal best is 210 feet,. He is ranked No. 1 in the state.

“I got by when I first started out because I was a good athlete,” Patricelli said. “But as I get towards my ceiling I have to focus on technique and not just my athletic ability.”

There’s a lot that goes into a good throw, Patricelli explained, including the weather, his form and how his arm feels.

“He’s a very good competitor,” Tahoma throwing coach Keith Eager said of Patricelli. “He’s usually at his best when it’s the biggest competition of the year.”

Also a thrower, Brock Eager — coach Eager’s son — has earned success at the hammer throw.

He currently is ranked first at the state in the 12 pound hammer throw with a distance of 220 feet, 6 inches.

Throwing is a family affair for the Eager’s clan; Brock’s older brother, Derek Eager, was state champion in javelin and discus in 2011, his senior year.

Brock said he was drawn to compete in the sport because he has been around it since he was a young kid.

“I’ve been doing track basically my whole life,” Brock said.

He started hammer throw in seventh grade and discovered his love for the event.

“My favorite part is seeing all the hard work pay off,” he said.

In addition, he also competes in shot put — in which he is currently ranked sixth in the state — and discus.

The hardest part about throwing for Brock has been realizing you can’t always muscle a good throw.

“When you try to throw far it doesn’t always work,” he said. “You have to use your technique.”

Coach Eager said the thing that stands out most about his youngest son is Brock’s work ethic, specifically how he trains six days a week, year round.

“I’ve just seen his level of commitment to the sport grow over time,” coach Eager said. “As he saw that hard work makes you better he committed to more hard work.”

Coach Eager added that he is excited to see what the future holds for both Brock and Patricelli as they go on to compete at the collegiate level.

“It’s been a joy to coach all of them,” he said.

Mjelde also started competing in track in middle school and was influenced by his friends to pick up pole vaulting as a freshman.

“It’s a sport unlike anything else,” Mjelde said. “Everything was new. It was just fun.”

His current personal best is 15-6 which puts him at the top of the state rankings by two inches and a school record by a foot a 3 inches.

“He caught on to pole vaulting pretty quick,” Tahoma pole vaulting coach  Steve Kent said. “Really, each year, and almost every meet, he just keeps getting better and better.”

Kent added that Mjelde’s background as a competitive wrestler helped him pick up pole vaulting.

“Basically (being a wrestler) means he has good strength, flexibility and coordination,” Kent explained.

Mjelde said that even though the competition is stiff there is a camaraderie and “synergy” among pole vaulters.

He added that one of his favorite things about the sport is that he can definitively measure his improvement every time his best gets better.

Looking ahead to the state meet, Mjelde said he hopes his favorite memory for the season is still to come.

Preparing to take his shot at a state title, Mjelde said that a large part of the preparation is mental.

“As soon as you step on the runway you can’t think about one part too much,” Mjelde said.

 

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