Tanner Berg was given the option of going out for track and field or getting a job. It’s safe to say that his choice has “worked” out pretty well.
The Northern State athlete has become one of the top throwers in NCAA Division II. And to think it all started when he was a junior at Watertown High School who had never competed in the sport before that.
“My junior year my parents told me I needed to get job or do track. I didn’t want to get a job so I was like, all right I’ll do track,” Berg said. “I’m pretty sure I ended up getting a job anyway in the summer.”
His first year went well as Berg finished seventh at the state meet in the shot put. While not earth-shattering, it was enough for Northern to take notice.
“I think they just saw the size of me” Berg said of the reason the Wolves took an interest. “If you look at it and you see this kid who has thrown for three months and gets seventh place at a state meet, he probably has a future behind him.”
Things went even better for Berg his senior year as he won the Class AA state championship in the shot put.
The next thing he knew, the relative newcomer to the throws found himself at Northern competing in the weight throw and hammer throw.
It proved to be a learning experience.
“It definitely wasn’t fun right away, that’s for sure. There was a lot of falling down,” Berg said. “It was just a ton of drills. The weight was way worse. It’s 35 pounds. No matter how big you are it throws you around if you don’t know how to throw it.”
It wasn’t long, though, before Berg starting throwing his devices around. Under the tutelage of assistant coach Mariah Mougey, Berg managed to break the school record in the weight throw at his first meet and he has been the school’s top thrower ever since.
“Mariah told me that you just need to change a few things and you can go to nationals,” Berg recalled. “I said, ‘OK I don’t believe you, but I’ll do whatever you want me to do.’ “
Berg made it to indoor nationals that season and has become a regular at the prestigious event each year since.
He said technique has played a key role in his development.
“Being strong definitely helps, but there could be a point where it doesn’t help anymore,” he said. “Then you start relying on technique getting better. It’s a lot more more than just being strong and all that stuff.”
Last year, Berg headed to the national indoor meet with the top throw in the country for D-II. However, COVID took over and canceled the meet.
“We got there, practiced at the facilty, met all the guys and then we went back to the hotel, ate and took a nap,” Berg said. “I woke up and they said there’s no more meet tomorrow because of COVID. It seemed like it was a bad dream.”
Berg returned home and found out that all of the gyms and weight rooms were closed, so he built his own makeshift gym in his parents’ garage and kept working.
Berg completed another solid indoor season going to nationals this past winter, and now is heading to his fifth overall national meet this coming week. He enters the outdoor national meet rated fourth in the country in the hammer throw. While the prominence of the meet has not changed, his demeanor has since his initial national competition.
“My freshman year of nationals was rough,” Berg said. “I was very nervous to be throwing against all these guys that were a lot better than me. Now, it doesn’t feel as nerve-wrecking as what it was.”
It probably helps that Berg has another family member competing at nationals. His sister, Tava, qualified for nationals in the high jump.
“It’s kind of cool and that me and my sister are both going to be there,” he said. “We both competed at the indoor meet. We both ended up placing, now we’re going to be there for a second time.”
There are many differences between Berg and his sister, but one of the most notable ones is that Tava has more experience in the sport.
“She’s been in track since like eighth grade,” he said. “She kind of always wanted to do it.”
By contrast, it took a major decision for the older Berg to give the sport a try.
“It is kind of crazy,” Berg said looking back at how things have all played out on his track and field journey. “My mom really pushed me into track. Her and my dad both did track in high school. My mom did the shot put. She kind of talked me into it. She said it will be fun, blah, blah, blah and it turned out pretty well.”
Just another reminder that when it doubt, mother always knows best.
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