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College Track & Field: Galen Brantley III, Adarra Hagelund achieve All-American honors at NAIA Championships

by | Mar 8, 2024 | Cover Story, Track and Field

Galen Brantley III winds up before throwing the shot put. Photo by DSU Throws/Tanner Gust

Even with the cards stacked against him, Soldotna’s Galen Brantley III still found a way to deliver.

The Dickinson State senior placed third in the shot put, throwing a personal best of 55 feet, 7.5 inches, resetting his program record and earning All-American honors at the NAIA Indoor Track and Field Championships, held in Brookings, S.D.

The Blue Hawk earned his second career All-American, after placing third in the shot put one year ago.

Brantley’s mark is representative not only of his hard work but of his relentless perseverance in one of track and field’s most technical throwing events.

Roughly one month ago, Brantley — a dual-sport athlete who plays tight end on the football team — was told he may need surgery on his ankle, due to the extent of his injury. During the week leading into nationals, the former SoHi standout pulled his hamstring, requiring extensive rest and recovery and limiting his practice to only one session prior to the championships.

Despite the setbacks, Brantley was nervous yet excited to compete on NAIA’s biggest stage for the fourth time in his storied career.

“Coming into a meet like that where there’s a lot of really good throwers, I think your mindset has to be ‘just do the best you can’ and that’s really all you can control,” said Brantley. “You can’t control what the other throwers are doing.”

Putting expectations aside, the junior focused on warming up well and heaving the 16-pound spherical ball as far as possible.

His first throw of 53-1.75 immediately placed him in the top three, but Brantley stayed composed, knowing there was still more he wanted to achieve.

“I was throwing pretty good in warm-ups, so that first throw, I think in my mind, was just to try and get a mark,” said Brantley. “And once I hit that mark, I could kind of ‘swing for the fences.’”

Coming into the meet, the Blue Hawk was ranked 11th, with aspirations of achieving All-American honors, though he knew it would not be an easy feat.

On his second throw, Brantley focused on keeping himself in contention, which is exactly what he did.

“I think as soon as I saw the mark for that throw, I knew that I was going to become All-American, I was pretty excited,” said Brantley. “I had a practice where I had a lot of throws that were in the mid-16 meters (54 feet) and so I knew that it was possible.”

Brantley’s throw of 55-7.5 placed him second behind Waldorf’s Wade Baker, the eventual runner-up.

The third throw for Brantley was a foul, while Jacob Netral of Marian (Ind.) — the NAIA leader — skyrocketed into first after committing two prior fouls.

With three throws remaining, Brantley launched two more over 53 feet for his best series ever, recording all of his valid throws over 16 meters (52.5 feet) and placing third overall.

Galen Brantley III stands with throws coach, Tanner Gust, after his All-American performance. Photo by Tanner Gust

“The goal for the meet was just to come in and PR,” said Brantley. “Wherever you place, you can’t really be upset with that once you do the best you can do.”

While some may believe he had luck on his side, Brantley credits his performance to the expertise of the strength and throwing coaches, who helped him fine-tune his technique and peak at the perfect time, despite impromptu injuries.

“The throw itself, it’s super, super technical,” said Brantley. “Since my freshman year of high school, I’ve always rotated, but it’s such a hard movement and it’s changed a lot in the last eight years that I’ve been throwing.”

And while the performance may not have been at full strength, Brantley has big goals for the outdoor season as he inches closer to the outdoor program record and the top of the podium.

“Right now, I’m about a meter off of our (outdoor) school record in the shot put,” said Brantley. “I’m going to be really close to that, I hope, by the end of the outdoor season.”

The shot putter wasn’t the only former SoHi athlete to make the trip, as he was joined by teammates and former state champions, Adarra Hagelund and Dylan Dahlgren.

Adarra Hagelund

Hagelund, a sophomore, made her inaugural trip to the championships, where she placed fourth in the high jump, clearing 5 feet, 8.5 inches, earning All-American honors.

Hagelund entered the meet as the NAIA leader and tied for the eighth-best performer in indoor NAIA history, after jumping 5-8.75 in late January.

In the weeks following, the sophomore earned her second NSAA Conference title to go with her outdoor title, while placing no lower than runner-up in the high jump during the regular season.

Perhaps most impressive, last year Hagelund’s top jump was 5-5.25; however, this season her lowest clearance was 5-6, with an average of 5-7.25 over seven total competitions.

With the heightened competition at the national meet, Hagelund competed like a veteran, clearing the opening height (5-3) on her first attempt which is two inches higher than her typical opening height.

She cleared the next three heights on her second attempt, which put her in the top-7.

Hagelund went on to clear 5-8.5 — her second-highest clearance of her career — on her third attempt before bowing out after three tries at 5-9.75.

Adarra Hagelund clearing 5-8.5 at NAIA Championships. Screenshot from DSU Track & Field

Siena Heights’ Emma Valentine took top honors (5-9.75), while Central Methodist’s Delaney Miller and Gina Butz of Marian (Ind.) matched Hagelund’s clearance but placed second and third based on fewer attempts at previous heights.

The Dickinson State sophomore was pleased with her performance while taking even greater pride in the spirit of sportsmanship at the championships.

“I was excited to place and even get to be a part of it!” Hagelund exclaimed. “But my favorite part was probably cheering for all my friends and teammates who were also competing.”

Joining in on the fun was teammate Dylan Dahlgren, who also made his first trip to the national meet, achieving a personal best of 56 feet, 9.25 inches in the weight throw to finish 19th.

Dahlgren, who played football and hockey with Brantley growing up, entered the weight throw competition as the 33rd seed.

A sophomore and defensive lineman during the fall, Dahlgren opened his competition with a throw of 55-6 in the second round, after nabbing an early foul. His third and final throw launched him inside the top 20 and improved his personal best by 9.5 inches.

Isaiah Tipping of Marian (Ind.) dominated the competition with a mark of 69-8.75.

Rounding out the meet was Juneau’s James Connally, who ran a leg on his team’s 4×400 relay, which finished 17th overall in 3:16.91.

The Eastern Oregon sophomore ran the third leg of the relay in the preliminary round, where the top 8 teams advanced to the finals.

While Connally’s team ending being a mere 2.2 seconds shy of making the final, the Mountaineers improved their recent program record by 0.89 seconds.

Story made possible by:

Nicole Johnston

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Family of Sponsors

Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose's Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie - Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited | Moria Smith | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Peter Pounds | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | RSA Engineering

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