The Internet Home of Track & Field

June 14-16, 2007 Greensboro NC

DyeStat on-site coverage

Emily Pendleton
Ohioan has dominated discus for 2 years

by Pete Cava
National Scholastic Sports Foundation


May 5, 2007, was a busy day for Emily Pendleton, whose things-to-do-today list included:
  • The Oak Harbor (Ohio) Invitational.
  • A 3:30 hair appointment.
  • Woodmore High School’s senior prom.
“The meet started around 9:30 or ten o’clock,” said Pendleton, a discus thrower at Woodmore, about 40 minutes southeast of Toledo in the Ohio hamlet of Elmore. “I thought about the prom a little bit. But then I said to myself, ‘Focus on the meet!’ I had plenty of time.”

The result was a personal best of 183 feet, three inches, making her the national leader this year and the 4th best prep thrower all time in the US.  And before heading off to the University of Michigan this fall, Pendleton could stretch it out even further – perhaps beyond the current national high school record. (188-4 by Suzy Powell CA in 1994)

“Emily has the ability to turn on the switch,” said her father, Mike, who is also her coach. “You can’t teach that.”

Back in 7th grade, Emily told her dad she wanted to give track and field a try. “She said, ‘I’d like to pole vault,’” Mike recalled. “But I said, ‘That ain’t gonna happen!’ I overruled her. We didn’t have a vault coach here, and safety was a big concern.”

Mike had thrown the discus in high school (“I think he wound up throwing about 163-ish,” said Emily) and there were a few implements stashed away in the family barn. “She did well, and by 8th grade she started getting out there,” said Mike.

Emily threw 152-1 as a freshman and took first at the state meet. She improved to 152-4 as a sophomore and repeated as state champ. Last year she took over as the nation’s best high school performer, winning a third consecutive state title. Her season best of 172-8 at a district meet topped the prep charts, and all but one of the year’s top ten marks were hers.

“I kept weightlifting throughout the season so I could control my peaking,” said Emily. “I practiced a lot, and I had rhythm.”

During a six-day span in June 2006 she claimed two major titles. First came the Nike Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., on June 17, where she won with a toss of 166-3. Pendleton completely dominated the nation’s best high school performers, finishing ten feet, nine inches ahead of her closest rival. Next came the U.S. Junior Championships in Indianapolis on June 23, where she faced the country’s best under-20-year-old throwers – preps and college freshmen. Emily took first with a throw of 170-6. The runnerup mark was 159-10.

“I knew I had a good shot at winning,” she said. “My dad had looked up the [entry lists], and he saw I was on top. There were people who were capable of beating me, but I came there ready. I was mentally prepared for that meet.”

Winning the U.S. Junior crown earned her a berth on the American team for the World Junior Championships in Beijing – heady stuff for a kid who hadn’t strayed much beyond her rural Ohio home.

First came a tune-up at a meet in Eugene, Ore., on August 8, where Emily competed against top open-class throwers. “I flew from Cleveland to Phoenix and from there to Portland,” said Emily. “It was my first time ever on a plane. The flight to Phoenix was delayed something like 45 minutes, so I was late getting in and I almost missed the flight to Portland. It was a little scary.”

The winner at Eugene was Suzy Powell (the newly-crowned American record holder and the high school record holder) with a mark of 198-7, while Emily finished sixth at 166-3. “It was awesome to meet those people and compete with them – seeing how they warm up and throw,’ she said. “It was nice to see how the pros do it.”

a thrower's special T-shirt

Pendleton brought a special item to Eugene, a t-shirt her dad picked up some time ago at a national throws coach convention. “It has the autographs of throwers on it,” she said. “John Powell signed it. Brian Oldfield signed it. I had everybody at the meet sign it, too. I got all of them – the big-time girls, all the big-time guys. That shirt’s full of names.”

The trip to Beijing was Emily’s first trip outside the United States. “That was a ve-r-r-r-y long plane ride,” she said. “The airport was full of ads in Chinese, and there were TVs with everyone speaking Chinese. But one of the first shops I saw was a Starbucks, which was kind of funny.”

The World Junior title went to Australia’s Dani Samuels with a throw of 198-11. Pendleton threw 152-6 in the qualifying round and was eliminated. “The Australian girl is awesome,” she said. “I watched her in practice. I watched them all, and it was a lot of fun to pick up on little things they do. It was a learning experience.”

a Midwesterner at heart

Despite her current status as a world traveler, Emily’s still a Midwesterner at heart. Before committing to Michigan, she considered nearby Ashland College. “It was close,” she said, “but it’s a Division II school and I like the big school atmosphere. I fell in love with Michigan the first time I went up there.”

Before returning to the Nike meet, Pendleton won an unprecedented fourth consecutive discus title at the state meet in Columbus on June 2 with a throw of 163-4, breaking her own state meet record. She also placed second in shot put with a throw of 42-10.

She’s also signed up for the Midwest Meet of Champions in Jackson, Mich., on June 10, and will try for a repeat at the U.S. Junior Championships in Indianapolis, June 21-24. The Junior meet qualifies the American team for the Pan American Junior Championships, July 6-8 in Fortaleza, Brazil.

That’s the kind of high-intensity competition that Pendleton thrives on. “I love challenges,” she said. “I’m always up for a challenge. It’ll be good to know there’ll be people out there trying to beat me.”

And the 13-year-old national high school record of 188-4 by Suzy Powell? “I’ve got five feet and an inch to do it,” said Emily. “I’m ready for it.”

Mike Pendleton said she’s already surpassed the record in practice. “I think she can do it,” he said. “But the national record is the national record because it’s way out there. I think it’s in her, but the conditions have to be ideal.”

Also making the trip to Greensboro this year will be Emily’s sister Erin. A sophomore at Woodmore, Erin has been named to the U.S. team for the World Youth Championhips in the Czech Republic city of Ostrava, July 11-15.

“Her best is 153-7 at the Eastwood (Ohio) Relays at the end of April,” said Emily. “She’s doing really good. I’m very happy with how she’s been doing.”

Judging from the way Emily and Erin have been throwing, Mike Pendleton might want to save room on his t-shirt for two more signatures.

NON home page