By Glenn Reeves
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It was simply an incredible track and field season for Elena Bruckner.
The Valley Christian junior broke the Central Coast Section record in the girls shot put and girls discus. And not by just a little.
Bruckner hurled the discus 182 feet, 8 inches at the West Catholic Athletic League finals. It was a personal-best by 20 feet and shattered the section record that stood since 1996 by nearly 17 feet.
Two weeks later, she went nearly three feet further than any girls shot putter in CCS history with a mark of 53-51/2 at the section finals.
In addition to setting CCS standards in both throws, she also led the nation in each.
Bruckner didn't come close to matching those marks at the state meet -- she won the shot put at 50-21/2 and took third in the discus (147-9) -- but her breakthrough performances made it a pretty easy decision to name Bruckner the Mercury News girls track and field athlete of the year.
The amount she improved this season was simply off the charts. Heading into her junior year she had bests of 46-111/2 in the shot put and 129-1 in the discus.
She improved by a stunning 53 feet in the discus. And yet she said that throw of 182-8 at the WCAL finals was far from perfect.
She fouled on her first two throws and had to get a legal throw just to advance to the next round. She did that and then threw 153 on her fourth throw. She broke the CCS record with a mark of 171-9 on her fifth attempt.
So she let it loose on her final throw and the disc sailed 182-8."I knew the best throw in the nation was 172, and I was so close," Bruckner said.
Everything must have been perfect. Right?
"It really wasn't," Bruckner said. "I threw it real low and at first I wasn't sure if it was going to stay in the sector. It was not a super good technical throw."
The national records of 56-81/4 in the shot put and 198-9 in the discus are now in Bruckner's sights. Both could fall if Bruckner improves even a fraction as much as she did this year.
"Absolutely,'' Bruckner said when asked if the desire to break the national records would provide motivation. "It would be an amazing way to go out and set me up to be successful in college, maybe in the Olympic trials next year."
Bruckner is not a year-round thrower. She said she will play volleyball for Valley Christian again as a senior but will no longer take part in club volleyball.
"She is such a blessing for our team," Valley Christian coach Josh Small said. "She has such a great maturity and such a humble attitude. With her, it's always less about individual accomplishment and more about the team and how she can elevate others.''
- Sprinter of year: Jade Harrison, Cupertino, junior
- Hurdler of year: Maya Miklos, Gunn, junior
- Distance runner of year: Lizzie Lacy, Menlo School, senior
- Horizontal jumper of year: Rachael Estell, Mountain View, sophomore
- Vertical jumper of year: Kathryn Mohr, Menlo-Atherton, junior
- Throwers of year: Elena Bruckner, Valley Christian, junior; Ronna Stone, Valley Christian, senior