Out-throwing the distance

Jenneel Rodney of the track and field team was recently honored in a special way by the MIAC, but that does begin to cover her level of achievement in her sport.


Rachel Peterson
Jenneel Rodney proudly sports hard-earned Hamline track and field apparel.

Cathryn Salis, sports editor

Track and field is not a sport that is scored in the ways that soccer or football is scored. It is based on individual success and breaking records at championships, not one-on-one meets, which is exactly what the Hamline track and field team is all about. 

Senior Jenneel Rodney was recently honored by the MIAC as the Field Athlete of the Week after her performance at the Carlton Triangular on January 21. However, this recent achievement tells only a portion of the star hammer and discus thrower’s success story at Hamline these past four years. 

Rodney started her athletic career at Hamline by walking onto the track and field team, but both Rodney and her coach Josh Blaschko had known that she would be there since she toured Hamline as a high school senior. The two met when a track athlete at the time brought Rodney to meet the team and see the facilities.

“I talked with her and we clicked right away. She’s got a great sense of humor. And so, yeah, I basically offered her on the spot like, hey, if you want to be here next year, and you want to throw, let’s try it, and she said yes. It was just like, the stars aligned, I guess.” Blaschko said.

And the stars had aligned, indeed. Rodney has made great strides to break the record for the hammer throw at Hamline again, which she broke for the first time just last spring. She is also striving to break the discus record during the upcoming outdoor season, which is currently held by Becky Culp at a distance of 47.11 meters.

These self–set goals have been a factor of Rodney’s success and do not go unnoticed by her coaches. Vaughn Tackmann, the new head women’s track and field coach, was brought onto the team in October 2021 and already sees Rodney’s potential.

 “She’s really motivated. She qualified for the nationals outdoors last year, and she has those same goals of qualifying indoors and outdoors this year,” Tackmann said. “She’s working really hard and it’s really paying off.”

Tackmann was previously at Carthage College as an assistant coach in their track and field program, working primarily with jumpers, sprinters and hurdlers. He started interacting with Hamline players before he was even officially hired, as some players, including Rodney, were present during his interview.

“After meeting with some of the athletes, their motivation and desire to be really good at what they do was something that really stuck out to me,” Tackmann said. “Right away I knew, alright, [Rodney] wants to get after it. She wants to have good things happen,” Tackmann said. 

Some good things that have happened for Rodney include her record-breaking throw last year during the outdoor season, which set the new record at 53.24 meters. She is anxious to get back outside and get started.

“You could ask just about any track and field athlete, indoor is like the red-headed stepchild of athletics,” Rodney said, in reference to the current indoor track season. 

Blaschko is also looking forward to seeing what Rodney can achieve in the spring based on her historic performance the previous year. 

“When we got outside and the meets counted, because we had a MIAC championship and a national championship, she just was stellar. She qualified for the NCAA national meet last year in the hammer throw so that meant that she was top 20 in the country last year.” Blaschko said. 

The championship meets are some of the most important meets for any track and field athlete, which is one of the most important distinctions between track and most other sports. 

“Last year we did compete, but we didn’t have a MIAC championship, which in our sport, that’s what matters. When you do football, or you do volleyball or whatever sport, each individual game matters because it goes on your record. But for track and field, we don’t do that. We’re never trying to win any meets except for the conference championship. They’re kind of just practices,” Blaschko said. 

Because of the casualties of championships due to COVID-19 restrictions in the past couple of years, everyone is feeling especially motivated to do well in the upcoming meets as they finally get a chance to show the community what they can do. 

“There’s a sense of, not urgency, necessarily, but a sense of wanting to do things the right way,” Tackmann said. “We’ve started out on a really good note, and we’re keeping our eyes forward on what the next thing is, but also enjoying each of the moments that we have each day.”

Rodney, her coaches and all her teammates are all hoping to finish the indoor season strong and send some players to nationals. The outdoor season is calling everyone’s name and anticipation is palpable. As Rodney looks to her last chance to become an All-American, her coaches are standing right beside her in support of her endeavors. 

“She’s very fun to work with. She’s got a good sense of humor. She’s a hard worker. She’s obviously talented. She’s got all the things you need to be successful,” Blaschko said. “I’m very excited to see what she does the rest of the year. Very excited.”