- WHO: Molli Detloff
- WHAT: NCAA Division I Track & Field Championships
- WHERE: Eugene, Ore. (Hayward Field)
- WHEN: June 7-10, 20-17
GRAND FORKS, N.D. – University of North Dakota junior thrower Molli Detloff stood off to the side, on the grass, visiting with a reporter from WDAZ-TV, the local ABC affiliate. It was Monday morning and she was giving an interview before participating her final practice in Grand Forks.
Just three hours later, she would be on a flight to Eugene, Ore., for the 2017 NCAA Division I Championships.
While Detloff gave her interview, UND assistant coach Drew Jones was inside the throws cage, pouring buckets of water onto the concrete surface in preparation for the day's practice. His pupil, ranked sixth nationally in the hammer throw, will compete on Thursday afternoon and the early forecasts call for rain.
No detail has been too small during Detloff's historic junior season and that was not about to change now.
UND head track and field coach Kevin Galbraith called her the new “flag bearer for this program going forward.”
That was on May 25, just moments after Detloff broke her own school hammer record on all three of her attempts at the NCAA West Preliminary. That performance, culminating with a final throw of 213 feet, 2 inches (64.98 meters), made her UND's first national qualifier in track and field since the school made the jump to Division I in 2008-09.
Earlier this season, Detloff became the first thrower in UND history – male or female – to eclipse 200 feet in the hammer. In May, she became the program's first to be named Athlete of the Meet at the Big Sky Championship.
Detloff, however, won't allow herself to reflect on her season. Not yet, at least.
“I can't think about it because then I won't be thinking about what I'm supposed to be thinking about,” said the Elk River, Minn., native. “It hasn't sunk in yet. Maybe this summer.”
She did go so far as to concede that others are enjoying her new-found media presence.
“It's cool,” she said, unable to contain her smile. “My family really enjoys it.”
STUDENT OF THE GAME
In the two weeks since her regional performance, Detloff has focused on balancing her preparation for the national meet. Practice, yes, but also rest and recovery (“Not get hurt,” she says with a big laugh).
She will also watch other high-level throwers on video. That's not a new practice element in advance of nationals, but rather something she does year-round. Even when you're the sixth-ranked hammer thrower in the country, much can still be gleaned from studying others. Detloff says she will look at footwork, how they're pushing the ball or different wind techniques.
Jones says Detloff's raw ability and power were what caught his eye when he recruited her, but it's her work ethic and ambition that have thrust her into the national picture.
“It's one of those things as a coach that you can't force,” said Jones. “You can't make those things happen. You hope kids do that. You hope kids want to do that, and she has.
“She has really bought in.”
IF IT AIN'T BROKE, DON'T FIX IT
Despite Detloff – and the program – reaching new heights throughout the spring and into the summer, both she and Jones have maintained an even keel. Jones says they will practice as they would prior to any other meet (minus a bucket of water here or there).
The hay is in the barn, as Jones is often inclided to say.
“The focus is on just running with what we've going, not making any changes and just having fun,” said Jones. “She knows how to throw far. We will work on what we know works for us and hopefully it shows up [on Thursday].”
On Thursday afternoon, Detloff will step onto Hayward Field at the University of Oregon and become UND's first-ever participant at the Division I Championship. She will walk among the giants of the NCAA track and field world.
Accordingly, she has set titanic goals.
Detloff, without batting an eye, says she is aiming for a top-eight finish to become the first Division I All-American in program history. In her landmark season of program firsts and school records, only a fool would doubt her.
“If I throw close to my PR…you can't be disappointed if you throw a personal best,” said Detloff. “But if I make first-team All-American, that would be sweet.”
Jones sees in Detloff the potential to someday compete beyond the collegiate ranks, but in the here and now they have just one mission to accomplish.
“She's got a chip on her shoulder and I like that,” said Jones. “I try to recruit throwers who have chips on their shoulders. I want the kids who want to prove other schools wrong for not recruiting them.
“She wants to do it for UND, she wants to do it for herself,” continued Jones, “and that's awesome.”