By GREG MENGELT
When Charlestown junior Megan Brooks heard the news that she was the 2013 News and Tribune Track and Field Athlete of the Year, she was surprised.
It wasn’t that Brooks hadn’t earned the honor. She was the top thrower in a strong field of area shot put and disus stars. She was also the sectional shot put champion and the highest finishing athlete at the girls’ IHSAA state finals.
However, Brooks’ entire season was a surprise — at least to herself.
“I didn’t think I would be sectional champion,” she admitted on Tuesday. “Once we got into the meet, I thought maybe I can do good. I never imagined I’d go to state. I didn’t even make the regional finals last year. All of my coaches really stepped up and helped me and put me on a weight program. That helped me make massive improvements.”
The Athlete of the Year vote was one of the closest in News and Tribune history. What put Brooks over the top — over Henryville junior distance runner Sadie Spears and Floyd Central senior thrower Leah Wolf — was her 11th-place finish at state and her dominance in her two events that were loaded with talent in Clark County and Floyd County.
Going into the tournament, there were up to five throwers — Brooks, Wolf, Henryville’s Natalie Uhl, Silver Creek’s Emily Christman and Borden’s Carson Casey — still in the running for the award.
Brooks came out on top by virtue of her finish at the state meet and her fourth-place toss of 39-feet, 4-inches at the Bloomington North Regional, which secured her spot at state.
“There’s a lot of kids around here who are really good,” Brooks said of the shot put and discus fields. “There were at least four of us that could have gone to state easily. It was how we threw that day [at the regional]. I happened to have a good day that day.”
As a sophomore, Brooks advanced to the regional in the discus but not in the shot put. Over the summer before her junior year, she began a weight training program.
Suddenly, she had blossomed from contender to elite.
“[Last summer] I was training and hitting 36’s,” Brooks recalled. “One day I hit 38 just before track season and it went from there. Something clicked and it started happening.”
After breaking the Charlestown discus record with a throw of 107-4 during the regional as a sophomore, Brooks secured the school’s shot put record during a meet at Southwestern on April 30.
Her 41-1 1/2 heave topped the record held by Abby Conklin. The discus record had also been held by Conklin, a former Miss Basketball and probably the most well-known name in Charlestown High School sports history.
“She’s such a big name at Charlestown,” Brooks said. “It’s something to beat Abby Conklin in anything at Charlestown. I never imagined I would get in the 40-range.”
At the Mid-Southern Conference meet, Brooks furthered her discus school record by going 116-11. However, she finished second to Christman for the conference title.
“Me and her train together,” Brooks said of the Dragon junior. “We kept going back and forth all year. We always have since middle school.”
Brooks went on to capture her first sectional championship at the Jeffersonville Sectional with a 37-11 in the shot put. She also placed third in the discus to advance to the regional in both events.
She kept improving at the regional, where she went 105-2 in the discus to finish 12th and 39-6 in the shot put. Only the top three athletes in each event automatically advanced from regional to state, so Brooks’ fourth-place finish appeared to come up just short.
“I really didn’t know I was going [to state] at first,” she said. “I was upset because I thought my season was over.”
However, the next four best shot putters across the state also made the finals field. The day after the regional, Brooks was summoned to Coach Brian Stewart’s classroom. That’s where she got the news that she was a state finalist.
“I was jumping up and down,” Brooks recalled. “I was so excited.”
“She had looked up some results and she realized there was still a chance,” Stewart recalled. “She was excited but down-to-earth and humble. It’s exciting for a coach. It’s not often you get to take [an athlete] to state.”
Brooks, who said she would like to continue her throwing career in college and has gotten some interest, still has another year to improve her state standing. She has big goals for her senior track season.
“I would like to win state,” she said. “It will be hard. There were a lot of juniors [in the state finals field]. The state champion [Liz Iverson of Martinsville] was a junior. I’ll just have to work even harder [this off-season].”
“She’s determined to do what she needs to do to get back [to state],” Stewart said. “She’s got her work cut out for her, but I think she’s bound and determined to get on that medal stand next year.”
2013 ALL-AREA TEAM
Thrower — Megan Brooks, Charlestown (Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year).
Sprinter — Jayla Bethel, New Albany.
Middle distance — Alyssa Moore, Floyd Central.
Hurdler — Maryashly Betz, Providence.
Distance — Sadie Spears, Henryville.
Jumper — Rachael Kavgazoff, Floyd Central.
Sprinter — Leah Mattingly, Providence.
Hurdler — Madison Kaiser, Floyd Central.
Middle distance — Maggie Shields, Silver Creek.
Distance — Rose Kaforski, New Albany.
Jumper — Hailey Lacy, Jeffersonville.
Thrower — Leah Wolf, Floyd Central.
Sprinter — Chelsea Lewis, Jeffersonville.
Hurdler — Nycia Ford, Jeffersonville.
Middle distance — Taylor Hines, Jeffersonville.
Distance — Brittany Sharp, Silver Creek.
Jumper — Kriston Sarver, New Washington.
Thrower — Natalie Uhl, Henryville.
Coach of the Year: Kyle Weigleb, Floyd Central.
Honorable mention: Emily Christman, Silver Creek; Carson Casey, Borden; Carmen Keehn, Floyd Central; Alecia Harrod, New Washington; Makenzie Crouch, Silver Creek; Whitney Andrews, Charlestown; Jamie Bierman, Floyd Central; Bailey Knable, New Albany; Tori Kingsley, Floyd Central; Scuyler Cerqueira, Floyd Central.