Cobbers senior Hovland saving her best for last in women's hammer throw

MOORHEAD-Sometimes when Concordia senior Bailey Hovland wants to clear her mind before tossing a metal ball attached to a steel wire and grip, she does impromptu tumbling moves.Roundoff back handsprings and back somersaults are part of her gymnas...
Concordia College senior hammer thrower Bailey Hovland will be competing at the NCAA Division III National Track and Field Meet in La Crosse, Wis. David Samson / The Forum

MOORHEAD-Sometimes when Concordia senior Bailey Hovland wants to clear her mind before tossing a metal ball attached to a steel wire and grip, she does impromptu tumbling moves.

Roundoff back handsprings and back somersaults are part of her gymnastics arsenal.

"There is that weird waiting period where you can overthink," said Hovland, who is from Willmar, Minn. "It's so I can get out of my own head."

That tumbling technique has worked for Hovland in multiple throwing events, including the women's hammer throw. Hovland is headed to the NCAA Division III Outdoor Championships, which start Thursday, May 24, in La Crosse, Wis. Her event is scheduled for Saturday, the final day of the meet.

Hovland is ranked No. 16 in the hammer heading into the national meet with a throw of 173 feet, 7 inches. That mark came earlier this month at the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships, where she set a conference record and broke her own school mark.

In her final conference meet, Hovland was named the outstanding field athlete. She also placed second in the discus and fourth in the shot put.

The 5-foot-5 Hovland has excelled in multiple throwing events, even though she's generally one of the smaller competitors in the field at most meets.

"I definitely don't like to be underestimated," Hovland said. "I firmly believe that hard work ethic is at least 80 percent of the battle. If you're not willing to show up and do the work, even if you're a talented athlete, you're not going to make it as far as you could."

Hovland will be making her first appearance at an NCAA Outdoor Championships and credits Cobbers throwing coach Brandt Berghuis for her marked improvement in the hammer throw over the past two years. In his second season with the Cobbers, Berghuis was an accomplished thrower at North Dakota State, where he learned from Bison throwing coach Justin St. Clair.

"I really started picking it up last year when Brandt came," Hovland said.

Hovland first set the school record in the hammer throw at the 2017 MIAC Championships with a toss of 166-4. She remembers that throw not feeling like a record-setting performance.

"I actually thought it was a terrible throw because it felt really different than most of my throws did and I came out ready to apologize to the coach," Hovland said. "I was surprised."

Berghuis said Hovland's been a joy to coach.

"It's her mentality," Berghuis said. "She comes to practice every day and works really hard. She's a big asset to the team. ... She's really coachable. She just picks up things quick."

Berghuis said Hovland makes the best of any situation. One example he gave was earlier this spring when the inclement weather in April had the Cobbers throwing in snow some days.

"She's out there having fun in the snow and lifts the team up with her positive attitude," Berghuis said.

Hovland said former Concordia throwing standouts Cherae Reeves and Hillary Birchem were both good role models for her earlier in her Cobbers career. Reeves was a Division III national champion in the shot put.

"There were so many incredible people for both to learn from and spend time with," Hovland said.

The Cobbers also have a men's athlete headed to the national meet. Sophomore Matt Bye, from Moorhead, is competing in the decathlon.

Huber, Young looking for big finish at D-II nationals

Minnesota State Moorhead seniors Brian Huber and Josh Young are hoping to cap their college careers with strong performances at the Division II Outdoor Championships, which start Thursday in Charlotte, N.C.

Huber enters the men's long jump the leader in the field at 25-11½, which is also a school record he set at the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Championships.

"It really boosts my confidence a little bit to know I hit a big jump like that," Huber said. "To finally do that and to do it at conference felt pretty good, too. It doesn't really change my mindset a whole lot. I'm going to have to pop up as big a jump as that or longer."

Young, from Moorhead, is ranked No. 6 in the men's 1,500 meters with a time of 3 minutes, 45 seconds. He finished seventh in the event last season and is hoping to improve on that performance.

"The nice thing about the 1,500 is it could be won by anyone on any given day if the cards fall right," Young said. "I'm feeling really good."