Heather Bergmann on the Verge of Greatness

June 2, 2011

060211aac_423_4732057.jpegWith her first NCAA Outdoor Championships less than a week away, sophomore Heather Bergmann has begun to think back at all those who have helped her reach this monumental achievement. Her middle school coach in Concordia, Kan., who first encouraged her to take up the javelin. Her sister, Christa, who she followed into track and field and whose footsteps she has followed in nearly every step of her athletic career. Her teammates and coaches at Kansas who have made her into the dominant thrower she is today.

Bergmann had a humble beginning to her athletic career. She had always enjoyed sports and staying active. Her sister had done track and field so she decided she should give it a go. She began competing in just about every event she could. Running, jumping, throwing; she was a natural and versatile athlete from the time she began at Concordia Junior High. Until one day, her coach approached her about a new event she had never even considered.

“My coach came to me and he told me, ‘You’d be really good at javelin,'” explained Bergmann. “I was like, ‘I think you’re crazy, but okay, I’ll try it.’ It turned out he was right because I really liked it. I kept running and jumping but in the end I decided to just focus on throwing.”

It turned out to be the right decision. Bergmann’s high school track and field career can only be described as dominant. She smashed the school record in the girl’s javelin. She was the 2009 4A State Champion in the javelin and was named the Gatorade Kansas Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year the same year. She was also the gold medal winner at the 2009 Nike Outdoor National Championships where she garnered All-America honors. According Track and Field News, she was the No. 1 high school javelin thrower in the country coming out of high school, making her a prime target for several area colleges. Bergmann though, had only one school in mind.

060211aac_423_4753393.jpeg“I got contacted by a lot of schools but I wasn’t necessarily interested in them,” said Bergmann. “It was pretty easy to narrow down schools just by talking to the coaches and looking at the schools themselves.”

Once KU and throws coach Andy Kokhanovsky came calling, it was a no-brainer for Bergmann as to where she would be attending school in the fall.

“It’s close to home and I’ve always been a Jayhawk fan,” said Bergmann of some factors that went into her college decision. “After talking to coach Andy (Kokhanovsky) it was a done deal. I really liked him and that’s the most important thing. You have to have a good relationship with the coach. You have to really like him or your four years are going to be miserable.”

After Bergmann made the move to Lawrence she quickly had to conform to Coach Kokhanovsky’s coaching style. It was a big change at first, but she caught on and quickly created lasting relationships with her coach as well as her teammates.

“He’s great but it’s definitely been interesting,” explained Bergmann of Coach Kokhanovsky. “It was definitely a change for me because he is really laid back and he puts a lot of emphasis on you individually. It’s been great though. He just makes practice fun. I think any of the throwers will tell you that. We always have a fun time at practice. He’s a great coach.”

The relationship Bergmann has built with not only her coach, but with her teammates has added to her college experience as well. The atmosphere Coach Kakhanovsky has instilled has promoted a tight knit group among the throwers and is Bergmann right in the middle of it.

“All our throwers are really easy going and sometimes it seems like we’re family,” said Bergmann. “We tease each other but at the same time they’ll be there for you and congratulate you and be happy for you. We’re really close and it’s great to have that support system behind you.”

Not only has Bergmann been dominate on the javelin runway but she is also one of the top Jayhawk athletes academically. She is currently pursuing a degree in chemistry and is also working on obtaining a teaching certificate as she aspires to one day become a chemistry teacher. She would also love to continue to stay involved with track and field once her own career is over by becoming a coach when she isn’t in the classroom.

Strength in the classroom has always been one of Bergmann’s best assets. She was the valedictorian of Concordia High School and was recently named a University of Kansas Watkins-Berger Scholar and Governor’s Scholar.

Just this week she was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District first team for her top performances in the field and in the classroom. She will also be a prime candidate to bring home Academic All-American honors later this month.

For now though, her main focus is to attain All-American status in the javelin throw next week at the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. After a fifth place finish in last week’s West Preliminary Meet, she is in a great position for another top performance. Most would be nervous entering a meet of this magnitude, but not Bergmann. She has experience in big meets and says she will treat this one like any other.

“I’m excited,” Bergmann explained.” I’m not necessarily nervous because I’ve competed against these girls a lot before, so I just have to look at it like any other meet. I’m really trying to focus on throwing my best at this meet because I don’t think I’ve reached it yet this year. It would be a great meet for me to peak at.”

060211aac_423_4753390.jpegThe chances are high of a great performance next week. Already this year she has taken home gold in the javelin in two meets and, at the Kansas Relays, she broke the school record in the event. This season she is one of only 14 women in the NCAA to overcome the 51 meter mark.

“I really want to peak right now because I know I have more big throws in me,” Bergmann explained of her goals for Nationals next week. Every throw is really important to me right now because Coach and I talk a lot about how important it is not to waste throws. I just really need to start strong in these competitions so I can build from there”

There’s little doubt that Bergmann has started her Kansas career strong and if her mind set in competitions is any indication, big improvement and better yet some big throws are in store for final two years of her time in a Jayhawk uniform.

The next two years will have to wait though because Bergmann is only thinking as far as the summer months. With nationals next week and possibly the USA meet in late June, Bergmann is in store for a busy summer.

“I’m staying here, taking some classes and training,” explained Bergmann of her summer plans. Hopefully USA’s will be in the future, too. So it’s possible I could be competing all summer, which is fine with me.”