Editor's note: Once a month, the Muscatine Journal will profile a former high school athlete from the area that is playing college athletics. If you know of an athlete the Journal should feature, contact sports editor Nick Cusick at 563-262-0533 or firstname.lastname@example.org
It wasn’t that Brady Grunder had never thrown the hammer.
It's just that he'd never even been coached how.
So when the 2012 Durant High School graduate got to work with Triton first-year throwing coach Brad Foote during his sophomore season at Iowa Central Community College this past school year, he took advantage of it — and it paid off.
Grunder capped a stellar season by claiming the national title in the hammer throw, in an Iowa Central-best 189 feet, 4 inches, at the National Junior College Athletic Association Outdoor Championships in Mesa, Arizona, on May 16.
“He helped me a lot. To be able to see him and have him throw with us, I can see what our throws should look like,” Grunder said of working with Foote. “For the first time I had an actual throwing coach. [It was] just eat, sleep and breathe throwing.”
The national title was a fitting end to a season that saw Grunder become a two-time All-American — once for his outdoor title and the other during the indoor season — despite battling injuries and some growing pains. He finished as runner-up in the weight throw with a throw of 55-11¼ at the NJCAA Indoor Championship in New York City in March after losing training time when his shoulder popped out during a lifting session.
Foote, a former thrower at Southern Illinois University, was able to help mold Grunder — who Foote still refers to as raw given his experience in the hammer and weight throws are limited to his two seasons at Iowa Central — well enough that he earned a scholarship to compete at the Division I level starting this fall at Kansas State University.
“I think the biggest thing about him was, one: the way that he worked. He had a great work ethic. And, two: the way he listened to me and implemented the things I told him,” Foote said. “Once he started to get the understanding of the [throws], things started to fly a lot further in practice.”
Grunder admitted finishing as runner-up in the indoor weight throw was disappointing. Winning the outdoor hammer title helped make up for that.
Foote said he and Grunder worked on his entry heading into the NJCAA Outdoor Championships and he felt the former three-time Iowa state track and field qualifier in the shot put and discus and two-time Drake Relays qualifier in the same two events was ready to unleash a big throw.
And he did, letting loose a throw that beat the Iowa Central record by nearly six feet to claim the national title.
“It was huge,” Grunder said of his throw. “I felt really good after it. Not only did I feel good individually, but I felt good for our team because it got us an extra point for our overall score.”
Iowa Central would finish second to South Plains College by just 13.5 points at the outdoor championships after winning the indoor team title in March.
Looking to his future at Kansas State, Grunder is excited for the possibilities after his goal of competing on the D-I level became a reality, due in part to his persistence.
Grunder continually emailed coaches and eventually received a reply from Kansas State throwing coach Greg Watson, who was interested in Grunder.
He would go on to receive interest from several other D-I schools, including the University of Nebraska, before settling on the scholarship offer and a chance to work with Watson at Kansas State.
He’ll redshirt his first year as a Wildcat, but that was something that's just fine with Grunder.
“Being able to train for an extra year with Greg Watson is a dream come true," he said.
And, much like Foote, who believes Grunder’s “ceiling is very high,” the Kansas State coaches are excited to work with Grunder.
“Brady is a guy that coach [Greg] Watson saw and was impressed with, projecting him down the road as a significant contributor in the weight and hammer throws,” Kansas State head coach Cliff Rovelto said in a press release on kstatesports.com. “Our perception is that his upside is high and it may very well be that he doesn’t compete his first year for us because, given a year working with coach Watson, he could be a real high-caliber guy in a couple years.”