Since the first time she picked up that heavy metal ball at Union Academy Middle School in Bartow, Chandra Brewer knew what to do with it: Throw it really far.
“All the girls and boys were together with the same shot put,” Brewer said, “and I won.”
What started off as a recreational activity in a middle-school gym class has turned into college titles, national competitions and even a realistic dream of the Olympics.
Since wrapping up her USF career with a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships earlier this month, Brewer competed in last weekend’s USA Track & Field Championships in Carson, Calif. In a field that included Olympians, past champions and the best athletes college had to offer, Brewer finished ninth out of the 17 entered. For the Barlow native, it was a long way from the P.E. fields at Union Academy.
“You’re amongst the best,” she said.
It took a massage therapist to help the humble Brewer realize that she was, in fact, part of the best.
“He was stretching out my legs and I asked him, ‘Have you ever worked on any big-time athletes?’ And he said, ‘What do you mean, I’m working on one right now.’
“It didn’t really hit me until then,” she said.
Olympics in future?
Brewer says she will complete her masters in elementary education as she continues to train for upcoming competitions, mainly next year’s USA Championships. She’s not going to join any official team, and while she’ll consult a few coaches, she says she’s mostly going to work out by herself.
As for her goals, the Olympics top the list.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” she said.
Asked what it’s going to take to make it, Brewer said she would have to “throw it really far.”
Then she paused.
“Really, really far,” she said with a laugh.
“It’ll take a lot of hard work (to make Olympics),” USF track & field coach Greg Thiel said. “But does she have the talent? Absolutely.”
Brewer thinks a combined throw of 60 or 61 feet will do the trick. To reach that, she would have to top her best by about five feet.
“I’ve seen people get five feet with just a little flick of their arm,” Brewer said. “It’s not an unreachable goal.”
USF and beyond
Thiel watched Brewer progress every year and calls her one of the three best track and field athletes in program history.
Moreover, when he and Brewer recall her time at USF, they both use the same word: “blessing.”
“She’s been such a great athlete, a leader and role model for our program,” Thiel said. “I wish we had 10 of her.”
History will show that Brewer was one of the most dominant athletes ever to attend USF. She’s the only track & field athlete — man or woman — to earn All-America honors three times. She’s been Conference USA Track & Field Player of the Year, won conference titles and earned the state title in high school. As Thiel puts it, “What other awards can she win?”
Her past — from middle school to high school to college to national competitions — is impressive. But as for the future, if she has her way, she’ll cast the shot put farther than any woman on the planet.
“I’m going to strive for the best and keep going and keep trying harder for that ultimate goal,” Brewer said. “Because I know I can.”