Hammer thrower seeks to defend Big Ten title despite broken hand

Quentin Mege broke his hand in a freak accident about a month ago.

Minnesota thrower Quentin Mege throws at the Jack Johnson Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, at the University Fieldhouse.

Bridget Bennett

Minnesota thrower Quentin Mege throws at the Jack Johnson Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, at the University Fieldhouse.

Megan Ryan

Senior thrower Quentin Mege returned to the Gophers men’s track and field team this year despite graduating last spring with a mechanical engineering degree, but it hasn’t gone as planned.

The France native delayed taking a job so he could fulfill his final year of eligibility as a team captain and try to win the Big Ten outdoor hammer throw title for a third consecutive year.

That goal seemed inevitable when Mege broke his own school record in the first outdoor meet of the season nearly two months ago.

But Mege broke his hand just before a meet in Arkansas in mid-April. He hooked his pointer finger in a door frame at the hotel, breaking the second metacarpal in his left hand.

Mege has had two different casts and now sports a splint. While the bone takes four weeks to heal — the exact amount of time before the conference meet — Mege has still dealt with soft tissue damage, bruising and pain in his tendons.

And while the injury may have appeared to be season-ending for a thrower, Mege has adapted his training so he can continue to practice in hopes of retaining his title.

“I’m kind of telling myself, ‘Hey, if you don’t win, at least score points for the team, and that’s not that bad,’” Mege said. “But you’ve got to face it. I want to win it … and it might just not be possible.”

The road to recovery has tested Mege both physically and mentally, assistant coach Lynden Reder said.

“There have been some bright days where we’re feeling like we’re really making progress and some darker days where we’ve been frustrated,” Reder said.

Mege said he whined about his bad luck at first — especially because as a non-degree-seeking student, he only wanted to focus on throwing. But fellow senior thrower Micah Hegerle said once Mege accepted the challenge, he dealt with the situation as well as possible.

“It’d be hard for anybody to have this setback after being so successful,” Hegerle said. “But he’s done a good job supporting everybody. … He’s always a good team player.”

Mege estimated the force on his hand while throwing is about 600 pounds. While he has changed his technique to put less pressure on his pointer finger, the team is still negotiating with conference officials on whether he can tape his hand or wear his splint during competition.

Bad weather may work in Mege’s favor as well, Reder said. There’s a chance of rain at this weekend’s Big Ten meet in Columbus, Ohio. Rain would limit Mege’s competition and possibly help level the playing field.

The mark Mege threw at the beginning of the season is likely enough to qualify him for the NCAA regionals at the end of May. Mege said he wants to compete in the NCAA finals in early June and the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in late June.

But even with a full postseason planned, Mege said he never considered foregoing the Big Ten championships in favor of more recovery. He just wanted to be back in the throwing pit as soon as possible.

“Most of the pressure and the difficulty is not being able to throw,” Mege said. “Because that’s what I want to do, and that’s where the fun is.”