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They Are Best in the Field : Seniors Millet and Bergreen Like to Throw Weight Around for the Bruins’ Track Teams

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

UCLA’s Tracie Millet and Eric Bergreen, national champions in weight throwing, will reach a crossroads at the NCAA championships, which begin May 29 at the University of Oregon.

After the NCAA meet, Millet, who will defend her 1990 women’s outdoor titles in the shot put and discus, plans to concentrate her efforts on competing in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. May 9, 1991 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday May 9, 1991 Home Edition Westside Part J Page 16 Column 1 Zones Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
Shot-putter-- The name of UCLA’s Tracie Millett, defending women’s NCAA outdoor champion in the shot-put and the discus, was misspelled in a May 2 story in the Westside edition.

Bergreen, a senior who won the 1991 NCAA men’s indoor shot put championship, said that he may try to qualify for the U.S. national team that will compete in the 1992 Olympics. But he added that he may also call it quits as a competitor after this summer and prepare for a career in business.

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Both champions have good reasons for feeling the way they do about their athletic futures.

While Millet has been free of serious injury since she came to UCLA, Bergreen has not been so fortunate.

He has had operations on both legs for injuries related to the stresses of weight throwing. He tore cartilage in his left knee, he said, and a blood clot had to be removed from the quadriceps muscle in his right leg, leaving him with a long, nasty-looking scar.

And according to Art Venegas, the UCLA coach of men’s and women’s weight events, Bergreen also suffers from a hyper-extended index finger on his right hand, a result of wear and tear from putting the shot.

The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Bergreen said that he also broke a leg, a hip and a couple of fingers as a defensive end in high school football. Despite the injuries, he considered playing college football, but “I figured I’d be dead before I graduated.”

So Bergreen, also a top hammer thrower, focused on a becoming a weight thrower.

“You have to be a little demented to enjoy something like (weight throwing) I’m a little on the weird side, but it’s OK--I’m not dangerous,” he said.

He should pose a danger, however, to his fellow shot putters and hammer throwers at the NCAA meet, especially since it is at the University of Oregon, next door to his hometown of South Eugene.

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He said he feels good about his chances of winning the shot put, and “I should score well in the hammer. I consider (that I have) the home-field advantage.”

After the NCAAs, Bergreen said he wants to compete this summer in the national meet of The Athletics Congress and the World University Games or the Olympic Festival. If he does “extremely well” this summer, he said, “I may try for the Olympics.”

Venegas said he has “a gut feeling” that Bergreen “will call it a career” after the NCAA meet, regardless of how successful he is in summer competitions.

He said that Bergreen “is physically an overachiever and works very hard for what he gets. Because of his two successive leg injuries he is always sore and in pain. I think he would gladly give up everything if he just won (the shot put) at the NCAAs.”

Millet, a senior from Auburn, Wash., who also won NCAA indoor shot put championships in 1990 and 1991, not only hopes to repeat as NCAA outdoor shot put and discus titlist, but wants to compete against the nation’s best at the TAC nationals and the world’s best at the World Games this summer.

But Millet would also like to help UCLA win the NCAA championship. The Bruin women have finished second at the NCAA meet for three years in a row and Millet has grown tired of the team’s bridesmaid’s role. She said that the women’s team recently held lengthy meetings to focus on winning the championship and thinks the meetings were productive.

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“We came out with a new attitude--a different team. It was fun to watch because the youngsters want to win the NCAAs for us seniors. It’s nice now because they want to work hard for us.

“It’s frustrating because there’s nothing you can do (at the NCAA meet) when you’re through with your events but pull for the team,” she said.

Venegas said he thinks that Millet has an excellent chance of repeating as the NCAA shot put and discus champion, even if it seems that others are having better seasons than she.

For example, he said, Millet’s best mark in the shot put this season has been a 54-3 1/4, notmuch farther than her freshman teammate, Dawn Dumble, who has a 54. He added that Christy Barrett of Indiana State and Texas freshman Eileen Vanisi have each had puts of more than 55 feet.

But he said that Millet “is a very genetically gifted individual. The more pressure you put on her at a big meet, the more power goes through her body. She’s an absolutely wild tiger the week of the meet, but she turns it off immediately once the meet is over.”

Millet said that competition from freshmen teammates Dumble and Melisa Weis, both from Bakersfield High, have kept pressure on her, but that she will have to give herself a boost when she competes for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

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She said that she has been able to compete against such top Americans as Connie Price, Lacy Barnes, Penny Neer and Ramona Pagel in the past, but that “now I will have a chance, possibly, to beat them.”

She said that if she gets to Barcelona, she expects to continue training for the 1996 Games in Atlanta. The question is, she said, “Can you put your life on hold for four years?”

Venegas doesn’t think she will have to do without a personal life to continue competing.

“I don’t know if she realizes the sacrifices that have to be made, but she can definitely be one of the greats. And marriage and family are not out of the question if she has a husband who is supportive and involved.”

Bergreen may be nearing the end of his career as a thrower, but he is looking forward to the NCAA meet just as much as Millet.

“The only way I won’t go to the NCAAs is if I break something,” he said. “Even then, I won’t let that stop me.”

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