Sarah Pate’s career track and field trajectory wasn’t ever set in stone and had its fair share of setbacks, but now that it’s over it has left both her and her family with plenty of positive takeaways.
After starting her collegiate career with a knee surgery and a redshirt, Pate was quickly forced to stop participating in the shot put, the event she had won the Drake Relays in as a sophomore in high school and used to garner a spot on University of Northern Iowa’s track and field team.
If getting over the trials and tribulations of a knee surgery wasn’t hard enough, Pate was forced to learn a new event to keep competing. That event was the hammer throw, a move that required her to completely alter her technique.
She had even been advised by a doctor to consider ending her throwing career entirely.
Parents Jeff and Linda thought about heeding the doctor’s advice, but knew it was best for Sarah to make the decision on her own.
Her throwing coach, Dan O’Mara, suggested the switch to the hammer throw during her freshman season and the process began.
The transition to the hammer throw brought more challenges as Sarah was limited to a lighter training regimen than her teammates, while continually testing the boundaries of pain.
But she came out and put her mark on her new event in her redshirt sophomore season, one of her father’s favorite memories.
“For us, one of the highlights was probably her sophomore year she actually got second in the Missouri Valley (Conference) in the hammer throw and the girl that beat her (Deanna Price) later that year was eighth in the Olympics down in Rio,” said Sarah’s father Jeff.
For Sarah, sophomore year was the same time she decided her new goal was going to be breaking a school record, something she went on to accomplish.
Now finished with her Panther throwing career, Pate sits atop the University of Northern Iowa record book in the women’s outdoor hammer throw after a 203 foot, 6 inch toss in 2017. She’s also 2nd and 5th all-time in the weight throw and is nestled at third in the discus.
“It just feels really good to accomplish something that I didn’t ever set out for,” said Sarah. “I just wanted to go to college to throw shot put and then everything else kind of fell into place from there.”
After all the rehab early in her collegiate career, Jeff saw Sarah’s determination blossom who she was as an athlete and a person.
Referring to her as a shy high schooler, Jeff thought Sarah’s personal growth outweighed the athletic accomplishments, including being named captain her junior season.
“By the time she was a junior she was captain of the track team, she was very outgoing, a leader, take charge person,” said Jeff. “ ... It’s made her a more well-rounded person. That’s probably the biggest reward from my point of view.”
The success may come as a surprise to Sarah, but Jeff has known for a long time that his daughter had plenty of athletic talent.
“I’ll be honest, we knew she was pretty talented. When she was in middle school I thought it was going to be basketball. When she was in high school I thought it was softball and then I realized when she was a sophomore in high school and she won the Drake Relays maybe this is track,” said Jeff. “I think she could have probably played, I don’t know about Division I, but she could have played any of the sports in college.”
But by her senior year of high school, they could tell what athletic direction Sarah was headed.
The Clarke High School alumna leaves UNI having finished in the top three of seven different meets and as a five-time Missouri Valley Conference field athlete of the week.
At the time of the interview, Sarah was working toward a job with Hallmark cards where she spent the summer interning in Leavenworth, Kansas.