It has been “a roller coaster” for Waterloo senior track and field star Brendan Duncan.
Last week, the three-time state medalist and 2011 Illinois State discus champion signed his National Letter of Intent to throw at Stanford University in California.
“There have been ups and downs and a lot of hard work. A lot of late practices, a lot of practices after meets,” Duncan said, describing his ride to the top. “I’ve had some meets where I have thrown really
good but then not pulled through when it mattered, and I had some meets where I did really bad and I ended up doing great later on in the season.”
When you ask people closest to Duncan why he has done so well, his hard work is the first thing that everyone mentions.
“I’m just proud of him. He’s got a really good work ethic,” Brendan’s father, Jeff Duncan, said of his son. Jeff also attributes Brendan’s success to the help of Waterloo track and field coach Larry Huffman.
“It has been a truly rewarding experience,” Huffman said of coaching the state champion athlete. “An athlete like this only comes around once in a coach’s lifetime, if you’re lucky.
“Not only have I taught him a few things, but he has also taught me some lessons as well. He definitely will be missed, and I know he will be successful at Standford.”
In order for Duncan to continue his success at the college level, he is being asked to compete in an event he has had the least amount of experience in.
He will compete, not in the event that won him a state crown, or the event that brought him another state medal, but an event that had not been thrown in the state of Illinois for 100 years, according to Duncan’s father. It’s an event that requires an athlete to whip a weighted medal ball on the end of a chain around their body on a circular path until it gains enough velocity and is released upon the throwing field to gain the most distance. The event is known as the hammer.Waterloo’s Brendan Duncan throws the discus during a meet last season. (Alan Dooley photo)
Over the past year, Duncan has stormed onto the track and field hammer scene, competing in United States Track and Field meets where he now holds the state record for hammer originally set in 1911.
“It will definitely be different, but it will also help because, no offense against my dad, he coaches me and we really have no clue what to do with hammer,” Duncan said with a laugh. “We’ve watched videos and talked to some coaches, but we are in the dark with it.”
Considering how Duncan has fared in the event so far, many coaches around the country believe this could be his best event. And Duncan says he is looking forward to having professional coaches help him in the hammer event.
As Duncan looks forward to embarking on a new event and a new school, he also stresses his education was number one on his college check list.
“When he was looking at schools, his main priority was where he could get a good education and track was secondary,” Brendan’s mom, Joanna Duncan, explained.
“I’m going to college for college,” said Duncan. “I am going to compete in track but my main priority was getting a good education because I had some colleges that were, based on past performances, had better throwing coaches, a better place to go if I wanted to make it to the Olympics or something.”
Among Brendan’s options were that of the University of Michigan and University of Illinois. And it wasn’t just his track and field prowess that was getting him such prestigious interest, but his accomplishments in the classroom as well. Duncan has a 4.3 grade point average, received a 33 on his ACT and is ranked in the top 10 in his class.
“(Stanford) is really prestigious, its engineering program is one of the best in the nation. So is U of I and so is Michigan. They had great engineering programs, but I just liked the feel of Stanford better. They seemed more professional,” Duncan said of his chosen engineering program and field of study.
But don’t get Duncan wrong, he would love to work toward an Olympic-size goal too.
“I’d like to go to Rio, but we will see what happens,” Duncan said with a smile. “I would like to make it to the Olympics or at least go to the trials and say that I could have or that I did. I guess it just comes down to how well I actually do.”
Before the 2016 Olympics and Stanford, Duncan still has the rest of his senior year and the upcoming track season to concentrate on.
“I have a personal friend who threw in Illinois a few years ago and is a junior in college now. He set the overall state record for discuss and I told him that I would break it. So I am hoping to throw about 210 (feet) in discus, but we will see if that actually happens,” Duncan said of his state winning event, adding that things are looking promising for shot put as well.
“Shot put I can already throw better than I thought I could coming into the year. I want to win state, but to win state I am going to have to break the 2A state record. So either way it will be an accomplishment.”
His accomplishments have so far inspired many and helped elevate the Waterloo track program.
“It means a great deal because it allows others to believe that, even though they are from a small town atmosphere, great things can still happen,” coach Huffman said. “As far as the track team, having Brendan at practice has allowed the other throwers to have someone to look to for advice.”
Duncan, however, is not the only highly touted WHS track and field 2013 prospect. Last year’s state high jump champion, Justin Kretchmer, has been deciding between the University of Kentuck and Iowa State University. He is scheduled to sign with Kentucky next Friday.
The WHS track and field season kicks off March 19, with the Waterloo Warm-Up.
Watch below to view a video of Duncan practicing the hammer throw.