SE: Merkley Ready for NCAA Prelims

When Tyler Merkley arrived at K-State last fall, Wildcat track and field throwing coach Greg Watson was confident he would make an impact from the start.

That notion was proven correct from the very beginning.

Though it is common for throwers to redshirt their first year of competition, that wasn’t the case for Merkley, a freshman hammer thrower from Rancho Cucamonga, California.

“Tyler was pretty experienced of a thrower when he came in,” explained Watson on his top male hammer thrower this season. “I knew he had a capability of throwing really well when he transitioned to the college weight. I think one thing that kind of separates him from a lot of people is he sets his goals high for himself and doesn’t let anything get in the way of those goals.”

In his first season with the Wildcats, Merkley was quick to stand out among the school’s all-time best throwers.

Just two meets into the outdoor season, Merkley achieved one of his goals as he broke the Wildcat men’s hammer throw record with a toss of 62.31m/204-05 at the UCLA Legends Invitational. Just three weeks later at the Rock Chalk Classic, he went on to reset the record with a personal best throw of 63.99m/209-11.

“I feel like I’ve grown a lot this first year,” said Merkley. “I’ve become a lot more mature in thinking of the right things. I’m still a freshman, so I do freshman things, but I definitely feel like I’ve grown and developed as a thrower and a student-athlete in a lot of ways.”

Merkley is coming off a second-place finish at the Big 12 Championship on May 13, where his throw of 63.71m/209-11 was just behind Oklahoma State senior Nick Miller.

“He’s really grown a lot over the year in terms of learning how to handle himself in competitions and how to handle his technique,” explained Watson. “As the hammer throw goes, he’s not a very big guy. So I think he has a chip on his shoulder every time he steps up to compete and that also propels him to be as competitive as he has been so far.”

During the recruiting process, Watson knew Merkley would be a good fit for K-State as he was hard working, competitive and, of course, talented. During his time at Los Osos High School, Merkley broke the school record in the shot put and was a three-time (2013-15) league champion in both the shot put and discus. He was an All-American in the weight throw and was the 2014 and 2015 California State Hammer Champion.

A 2014 USA Youth Olympic Team member, Merkley was used to competing at a high level and wanted to attend a university where he could thrive. K-State provided him that opportunity.

Though Merkley had never visited the Little Apple prior to showing up last fall, he knew because of Watson and the teammates he would be surrounded by, it would be a good fit for him.  

“One of the main reasons I chose K-State is because of Coach Watson; I thought he was the best coach out of everybody I was talking to,” said Merkley. “I also I knew there was going to be a really good hammer squad here when I came. I actually never came on a visit, but I knew that just by the people I was talking to and Coach Watson being the good coach he is, I knew it’d be a good place to go.”

And so far, he can’t imagine himself anywhere else.

“It helps that I have a good hammer team behind me,” Merkley continued. “Everybody is really close, and it’s a lot easier to push each other when you’re competing really well. They’ve helped me be even better as time has gone on because there is always someone there to push me.”

Next up for Merkley and the Wildcat track and field team is the NCAA West Preliminary, which will be held at Rock Chalk Park in Lawrence, Kansas, this Thursday through Saturday.

“I just want to keep improving. I’m right on the cusp of making nationals, and I think if I did that, it’d be a great goal to get,” said Merkley. “It would also be awesome to make nationals as a freshman. I just have to keep improving and making sure I’m in the game every time I throw. I’m still striving for more in this last meet or two that I have coming up. There is a lot more I can do, but I feel like I’ve done a lot of good in this first year. I haven’t left much on the table.”

For more information on the Wildcat track and field team’s trip to Lawrence for the NCAA West Preliminary, stay tuned to www.kstatesports.com or follow the hashtag #KStateTF on Twitter. Additional information on the meet can be found at the event’s home page by clicking here.