- One day, the Texas freshman opened the meet by singing a flawless rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner.
- The next day, she eclipsed the Longhorn women’s record that had stood for 36 years with a throw of 179 feet, 3 inches in the discus.
- In the shot, Bruckner jumped from eighth place to fourth on her final throw of the competition, an effort of 52 feet, 7 ½ inches.
Breaking the oldest mark in the Longhorn women’s track and field record book didn’t rank as the most nerve-wracking task Elena Bruckner had to overcome at the 90th Texas Relays.
That came about 24 hours earlier. On Friday afternoon at Myers Stadium, Bruckner was handed a microphone on the stadium infield. She took a deep breath and off she went.
“Oh say can you see …”
All in all, Bruckner had herself a memorable inaugural Relays as a collegian. One day, the Texas freshman opened the meet by singing a flawless rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. The next day, she eclipsed the Longhorn women’s record in the discus that had stood for 36 years.
In the second round of the competition, Bruckner got off a throw of 179 feet, 3 inches. It broke the school mark of 177-7 set by Laura Messner in 1981.
It wasn’t exactly an unexpected achievement. The San Jose, Calif., resident arrived at Texas ranked No. 4 all-time among prep female discus throwers with a best of 186-10. At UT, she and field-events coach Ty Sevin have been making tweaks to her technique.
In the shot put Saturday, Bruckner jumped from eighth place to fourth on her final throw of the competition, an effort of 52 feet, 7 ½ inches.
“I’m switching a lot of things with my form,” she said. “Today was more just like a sigh of relief.”
So was Friday after her performance of the national anthem. She sang the song numerous times before athletic events at Valley Christian High School, but this was a different venue in front of a different crowd.
“Oh my goodness, singing the anthem was definitely more nerve-wracking than this (her discus record). Absolutely,” Bruckner said. “I was so nervous – not to sing, but there was a lag with the microphone time and the voice coming out, so I really had to focus and keep my timing.
“I closed my eyes because some of my teammates were directly in front of me,” she added. “I knew if I saw them I’d start cracking up. So I was like, ‘Tune it out and just sing your song and it’ll all be good.’”
Bruckner has been singing almost all of her life. She’s had no formal training – “definitely not. I just kind of do it. It comes from my heart” – and has sung in her church choir as well as productions in musical theater, primarily in backup roles.
“One time I did get to play ‘Annie,’ so that was kind of exciting,” she said.
Nevertheless, Sevin, her coach, raised his eyebrows when Bruckner approached him and asked if she could sing the anthem before a meet. “He was kind of skeptical at first,” Bruckner said with a laugh.
But after Bruckner showed Sevin a video of her singing, the wheels were set in motion. She had no expectations it would lead to a gig at the Relays, but on Friday, there she was.
“I only found out a few days ago,” she said. “I thought I might have to practice a lot, but I sang it one time and was like, ‘Hey, I’ve got this.’ I sing enough in my day-to-day life that it was just like second nature to me.”