A year ago, Brooke Feldmeier was a freshly minted Tumwater High School graduate who capped her illustrious prep track and field career with six individual state titles and was a two-time state multi-event champion.
None came in the 800 meters.
She never ran an official 800 high school race.
Funny, because now she’s a Southeastern Conference champion in the 800 as part of a freshman campaign at Ole Miss filled with so many accolades, she’s making headlines almost every week.
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• The SEC indoor and outdoor women’s freshman runner of the year.
• SEC outdoor champion in the 800 (2 minutes, 4.44 seconds) to become Ole Miss’ first 800-meter champion and the Rebels’ first freshman woman to win a conference title.
• Indoor All-American, placing eighth at the NCAA indoor championships (2:05.80); she was the only freshman in the finals.
• Three-event school record holder (indoor 600 meters, indoor 800, outdoor 800).
And that’s all in her first college season for the 19-year-old.
The final chapter on her historic freshman season will be written this weekend at the NCAA Division I outdoor track and field meet at the University of Oregon’s historic Hayward Field.
Her time of 2:03.13, ran at last week’s NCAA East preliminaries, not only lowered her own school-record time to qualify her for this week’s national championships, but it ranks her 87th in the world and 11th nationally. The women’s 800 semifinals are at 5:44 p.m. Thursday.
Her athletic biography on Ole Miss’ website now reads multi-event/middle distance, and Feldmeier can’t help but get a little chuckle out of it.
“I think I might be the only one,” she said.
Her unintended transition as a multi-event athlete to one of the country’s top 800 runners is a happy one, and she’s still learning the race — race by race, in fact.
“I love it now,” Feldmeier said.
At Tumwater, Feldmeier won six state titles — the 200, 400, 110 high hurdles in ech of her junior and senior seasons; the latter three titles despite a left hamstring injury she later admitted to being a partial tear.
That’s healed, but the start on collegiate training was slowed because of a bout with mono.
Then, final exam scheduling conflicts prevented Feldmeier and other multi-event athletes from competing at a December invitational. Instead, Rebels coach Brian O’Neal had heptathletes and decathletes perform a 600 time trial, and wondered if the Feldmeier’s 1:27 “really just happened.”.
“I immediately called for the managers,” O’Neal said.
The transition to the 800 was on.
When O’Neal, a former 800 runner coaching at his alma mater, talks about Feldmeier, he raves about her competitive spirit and determination.
“She wants to be the best and challenges herself daily to be the best,” O’Neal said. “What you see on the weekend is a glimpse to what I believe the future is for Brooke, and that’s a star in the 800.”
O’Neal isn’t just talking about her next three years in college, either. As a coach who’s worked with athletes ranging from all-SEC to future Olympians, he feels Feldmeier has what it takes to be on the Olympic level, calling it a “near possibility.”
“I can tell you, you haven’t seen the best of Brooke Feldmeier,” O’Neal said.
Feldmeier may be considered a novice 800 runner, but that makes her times more impressive. It should be only a matter of time before she’s a sub 2-minute runner, an elusive barrier. Feldmeier wants to be the best women’s 800-meter runner ever, she said.
“I’m going to see where I can go — I’m not setting any limits,” Feldmeier said. “I want to test myself to see if I can get to that elite level. No one wants to go out there and be decent. I want to train out there and be the best in the world.”
Feldmeier broke Ole Miss’ 800 indoor school record in her collegiate debut in January (2:05.29), which ranked No. 1 nationally for a time, on her way to an eighth-place finish at the NCAA indoor championships (2:05.80) in March.
She continues to lower her school-record outdoor 800 time, as she did at last week’s NCAA East prelims on her way to a possible record-setting weekend in Eugene.
“I want to come here and make a name for myself, and I believe that I’ve had that mentality for the entire season,” she said.