Competitive Drive: Wichita State thrower overcomes adversity, breaks school records

Competitive Drive

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – When Michael Bryan first came to Wichita State in 2019, he never thought he would be one of the best in his event, the hammer throw.

“Looking at the top 100 charts, I was really trying to just pass 95th place or 90th place… something really low,” said Bryan.

Now, the Wamego native is making it into the top 10 and will be one of two Wichita State track and field athletes to represent the program at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.

“My goal at the meet is just to get on the podium,” said Bryan.

Bryan has come a long way from being unknowingly cut from the program as a walk-on. After his redshirt season at Wichita State, in which he recorded a personal best 59.16m/194-1, finishing second in the K.T. Woodman Classic hammer throw, Bryan wanted to make a change.

“I had a conversation with my coach two years ago. I went up to him after my season and I asked him, ‘what do I need to be a 70-80 meter hammer thrower?’ He laughed at me at first.”

His throwing coach, John Hetzendorf, gave him advice that would change the trajectory of his college athletics career: “You need to be obsessed with it. You have to make the sport your life in a way in order to get better.”

Over the summer, Bryan worked day in, day out. Wichita State Director of Track & Field and Cross Country, Steve Rainbolt took notice.

“Michael Bryan doesn’t take breaks, he just doesn’t do it — he’s an unbelievably dedicated guy,” said Rainbolt. “He’s somewhat obsessed with it, maybe we don’t like to talk about athletes getting obsessed with what they do, but that’s what it takes sometimes.”

Rainbolt continued, “For him, an average athlete with an average background, he decided he wanted to be really, really good at hammer throwing and it’s paid off.”

After a year-long hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic, Bryan broke the school record for the hammer throw with a personal-best 66.72m/218-11 at the Shocker Spring Invitational. 

Now, Bryan hopes to qualify as an All-American at the NCAA Track and Field Championships.

“It’s been on my mind,” said Bryan. “If you really love something, you’ll have dreams about it and it’ll affect you day-to-day. This week I’ve lost sleep because I’ve been thinking about it a lot.”

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