From France to the U: A hammer-throwing 'rock star'

Quentin Mege, with dual citizenship in France and the U.S. (and a 3.92 GPA), is an emerging star in both countries in the hammer throw.

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Quentin Mege recently set a Gophers school record in the hammer throw at 220 feet, 1 inch. If he could add 10 feet to that mark, he might return to the U for another year to pursue further glory. He trained above with a weighted hammer.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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Gophers assistant track and field coach Lynden Reder found hammer thrower Quentin Mege, a native of suburban Paris, via a message board and had some initial communication with him on Facebook.

Getting approval for Mege's transfer from the National Institute of Applied Sciences in France took nine months. But it was worth it -- a sentiment punctuated this month when Mege broke the school record in the hammer throw in winning the Big Ten title for the second consecutive year.

Even if the record was previously held by the man who recruited him.

"In coaching, you recruit as hard as you can and then you've got to get lucky," Reder said. "With Quentin we got incredibly lucky. He is an outstanding teammate, a leader, a [great] student. He is just a rock star."

After two spins of the 16-pound hammer over his head and four quick full turns of his body, Mege threw 220 feet, 1 inch to top Reder's record by more than four feet. Of course, he was unhappy with his record throw -- until he heard the distance -- because of a bad finish on his last turn.

The throw made him the No. 3 seed in the NCAA preliminary meet starting Thursday and underscored how far he has come. But it also showed how much room there is to grow even as his college career draws to a possible close. This is his 11th year trying to master the complex technique.

"We say it takes up to 10 years to be a really consistent, technically sound hammer thrower," Mege said. "I am finally there. I can see it this year."

Mege compiled a 3.92 GPA in his two years at the University of Minnesota and graduated earlier this month with a degree in mechanical engineering.

But Mege, 23, will compete for the Gophers at least one more time this weekend at the NCAA West preliminary track and field meet in Austin, Texas. The top 12 finishers there qualify for the NCAA meet June 6-9 in Des Moines.

"If [Mege] throws what he has been throwing, it won't be a problem for him to advance," Reder said.

The 6-2, 220-pound Mege is the leader of a trio of Gophers hammer throwers who qualified for the NCAA preliminary meet. Micah Hegerle is seeded ninth and Jon Lehman is 18th, giving the Gophers "one of the few programs in the country that has three guys over 200 feet," Reder said.

"The fact that I am not practicing alone and I can practice with two friends [for this meet] is just great," Mege said. "And it is possible we all could go to the next round."

Mege is hoping for a third sizable leap in distance on his throws before the college season ends.

"My previous [best] coming into this year was 207," he said. "Then I threw 215 in Iowa and then 220. I would like to get one more of those big jumps."

If that happens, Mege would achieve another of his goals: making the U.S. Olympic trials. Now he is on the bubble.

Mege has competed in the French national championships the past three years -- placing eighth in 2010 -- and already has met the standard for their Olympic trials. But he won't be there. Instead Mege, who was born in New York City and has dual citizenship, wants to face the tougher competition and be in front of the bigger crowds at the U.S. trials.

And if he does throw the hammer another 10 feet, Mege said, he would consider returning to the U for another year to keep throwing. He would put his work career on hold and attend graduate school.

"Ten feet [more] would be over 70 meters and you start knocking on the door of an NCAA championship," he said. "You start knocking on the door of another selection for the French national team or even the U.S. national team."

Said Reder: "We want him to keep throwing far and stay in Minnesota another season. But he kind of has the world by the tail."

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