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Total Transformation

Once a standout pole vaulter, Platel heads to East Regional Meet as a top-notch thrower

May 28, 2014

Total Transformation

Jacob Platel and teammate Joe Miceli before leaving for the NCAA East Regional Meet

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Three year’s ago, Jacob Platel’s career as a Binghamton student-athlete appeared to be over. He had arrived from Delmar (N.Y.) in 2009 as a state champion pole vaulter at Bethlehem High School. As a freshman, he placed at both the America East Indoor and Outdoor Championships. The following year, however, he was hampered by strength and weight issues that kept in from excelling in his event. In December 2011, he quit the team.

“The end of my sophomore year was a turbulent time athletically,” he said. “I had been plagued with strength and weight increase that prevented me from maintaining the foot speed and gymnastic ability that I needed to be a competitive Division 1 pole vaulter. Before winter break my junior year, I decided it was a time to call it a career. It didn’t matter how much training, running or dieting I did. I just wasn’t physically built for this event anymore.”

It is against that backdrop that Platel’s current status should be measured. This coming weekend, he is competing for that same Binghamton track & field program at the NCAA East Regional Meet. Instead of the pole vault, he will take part in the hammer throw, an event in which he is ranked No. 38 in the entire Eastern half of the country. Simply put, Platel has come a long way from where he was nearly three years ago.

After quitting the team in 2011, Platel had trouble adjusting to life after being a student-athlete. Despite his sophomore year struggles, there was still much he missed about being a part of the Binghamton track program.

“It was extremely difficult to go from training five days a week to having no athletic obligations in the blink of an eye,” he said. “It wasn’t long until I realized I was extremely bored and missed track and field.”

Although he was no longer on the team, Platel still lived with two throwers who were. It was then that he wondered how he would fare if he tried the throwing events as opposed to the pole vault.
“The hammer throw always intrigued me and it just so happened I was living with two throwers that were still competing for BU,” he said. “I asked one of them (Greg Feathers) to teach me how to throw. After a few days of playing around with that event, I realized I had some aptitude for it.”

By the end of the 2011-12 academic year, Platel was determined to rejoin the team and compete in the throws. He approached head coach Mike Thompson and asked for a tryout in September 2012. After throwing 160 feet at that try out, Platel was awarded a spot back on the team.

“He did very well right away in the hammer throw,” Thompson said. “He taught himself for the most part until he started working with the team the following year.”

The transition to being a thrower on the team was seamless for Platel. He earned all-conference honors at the 2013 America East Indoor and Outdoor Championships. In the process, he surpassed even his own expectations for his first year back with the program.

“During the beginning of my first season training as a thrower for BU, my strength increased dramatically due to being put on the throwers’ lifting program,” he said. “My weight increased and I felt more athletic than I ever had. It sounds kind of funny, but was more athletic as a 240 lb thrower than I was as a 185 lb pole vaulter.”

Heading into the 2013-14 campaign, Platel’s goals were dramatically different that the previous season.

“After my first year back, my goals changed from being just a weight and hammer thrower to being an IC4A and regional qualifier,” he said. “Because of the confidence in my ability, I actively pursued those goals for the remainder of my collegiate athletic career.”

This past month, both of those goals were realized. Platel qualified for the IC4A Championships (which were held May 18-19) and was sixth overall in the hammer. More importantly, his distance of 197-8 demolished his own school record by over seven feet and clinched a spot at this weekend’s NCAA East Regional Meet.

Platel’s record-breaking throw at the IC4A meet came on his final attempt. Had it been an ordinary throw, he would have ended his career and missed out on going to regionals. Instead, the person who quit the Binghamton track nearly three years earlier delivered the throw of his life.

“On what I assumed was the last throw of my last meet of my athletic career at Binghamton University, I had shattered my personal record, the school record and qualified for the East Regional meet,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better than that.”

Thompson is no stranger to successful athletes at Binghamton. He has coached national champions on all three NCAA Division levels during his 19 years at the helm of the program. But he has never seen a career transform like Platel’s.

“I can’t imagine any other college athlete placing in their conference meet in the pole vault and hammer throw,” he said. “A good decathlete could possibly do it in the pole vault and javelin, discus or shot put because they consistently work on those events, but I have never heard of anyone excelling in the vault and hammer.”

Platel has already graduated with his degree in environmental studies. He plans on eventually working outdoors in a career suited for his major.  As he looks back during his time at Binghamton, however, he is extremely grateful for the role the track program he played in his collegiate career.

“I don’t think I would have succeeded as a thrower in any other program, mainly because any coaching staff other than ours would have laughed at the idea of a pole vaulter being a hammer thrower and probably wouldn’t have even granted me the try out,” he said.  “For what they have allowed me to do, I will always be grateful.”

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