Penn track's Brenza throwing way into record book
Brenza picked up shot put in high school after growing up playing hockey
February 25, 2013, 9:21 pm·
Stephanie Nam | DP
There’s a quintessential image of a thrower — a hulking, intimidating behemoth.
Then there’s Jake Brenza.
In his junior season, the soft-spoken, unassuming shot putter has reached another level, taking his career — and the Penn track team with him — to new heights.
The tale of Brenza’s career begins not at the green fields of Trinity High School in Camp Hill, Pa., but at a small table in its cafeteria.
“[The track team was] doing a little sign-up table at lunch, and I was like, ‘You know what, I’ll try this, whatever,’ as a joke,” Brenza said. “And I went out, and it turns out I loved it.”
A hockey goalie since age five, Brenza was a decided outsider to the track scene. But once he picked up a shot put for the first time, magic happened.
At Trinity, Brenza quickly became a record-setter, winning the PIAA Class AA state championship in the discus and finishing second in the shot put.
A hot commodity not only for his throwing ability but also his skills in the classroom at bioengineering, Brenza was quickly snapped up by the Quakers.
Once at Penn though, Brenza quickly found himself undersized relative to his gargantuan competition. Spurred by the work ethic that allowed him to excel at throwing in the first place, Brenza found strength in a place unfamiliar to him in high school: the weight room.
“I never did any lifting or anything in high school,” Brenza said. “So it was a big difference to put myself in the gym … and it’s a big thing to find out I love it so much.”
Brenza’s behind-the-scenes work paid off in a big sense, culminating in a spot in Penn track history.
At the Ivy League championships last year, Brenza logged a shot put toss of 17.25 meters, launching him into third place in the Quakers’ all-time record books and earning him a trip to the NCAA East Regional Championships.
Brenza’s remarkable success hasn’t slowed down this year. At last weekend’s indoor Ivy League Heptagonal championships, Brenza put forth a fifth place showing with a throw of 16.52 meters.
But Brenza’s skill set extends far beyond just brute strength.
“He’s very dedicated and he loves what he does,” throws coach Tony Tenisci said. “He knows his body really well, he knows the technique really well and how it works in his body, and you know, that’s really refreshing.
“Rather than an athlete turning to you and saying ‘What did I do?,’ he knows what he did.”
Brenza’s quick wit has allowed him to function almost as a player-coach, an invaluable asset for the Quakers with Tenisci having to spend more time away from his throwers thanks to his new responsibilities as the head coach of the women’s team.
Though Brenza is short in stature, he looms over the rest of his teammates as an emotional leader and a mentor for the younger throwers.
“He’s really a wonderful leader,” Tenisci said. “And he’s been a great mentor to the younger ones, the team really admires him and they respect him a lot for his work ethic, his generosity to give advice.
“I’m always very grateful for him being in the group … because he really guides them really well and mainly by example.”
And though Brenza may not speak the loudest or stand the tallest out of his peers, his accomplishments have sounded louder than words ever could.