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'The best is yet to come': Ashwaubenon track and field star Thea Kral named Gatorade Player of the Year

'The best is yet to come': Ashwaubenon track and field star Thea Kral named Gatorade Player of the Year
Posted at 7:25 PM, Jul 08, 2024

ASHWAUBENON (NBC 26) — At Ashwaubenon high school you can find one of the best track and field throwers in the country, but she’s more than just an athlete.

“You can look at my stats and you can tell that I’m a good athlete, but just knowing that people also recognize that I put effort into my community and academics and stuff like that – it’s really really really rewarding that I’m recognized not just for my numbers,” said Ashwaubenon soon to be senior Thea Kral.

For Kral, her coaches knew right away that she’d be special in discus and shot put.

“Believe it or not her freshman year, her first week, we were doing some drills into the wall, and (assistant coach Dan Schmidt) and I were talking and we’re like, ‘she can be good’,” said Jaguars assistant track and field coach Tyler Genovese.


Kral dominates in the shot put and discus. She’s won the Division 1 discus title two years in a row along with the shot put title this past season.

“Knowing that as soon as it leaves your fingertips, you have thrown a good throw, it’s so special,” Kral said.

It takes a lot more than being strong to be a dominant thrower. 

“It’s extremely precise,” said Kral. “There are so many little things that you can change to make your throw better or worse and the majority of it is technical and the majority of it is mental and you do have to be strong to perform well, but the majority of it is doing the drills and working on your muscle memory.”

All of that hard work not only paid off in sweeping the throws events at state this year, but it also earned her Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year honors.

“I saw that I was Gatorade Player of the Year and I ran and told my mom and we were screaming,” said the thrower. “It was just the greatest thing ever.”

But winning the award doesn’t mean you’re just an excellent athlete. It’s also about having good academics and exemplary character. Kral excels in her studies and volunteers as a lifeguard at the Salvation Army Kroc Center and rings bells on behalf of the charity during the holiday season.

“I feel very very honored to have all these opportunities and it brings me a lot of joy to help the community around me to feel as special as I do every day,” she said.

And according to her coaches, this is just the beginning of the great things she will achieve.

“She’s just such a great kid that it makes coaching worth it,” Genovese said.

“It’s been a fantastic journey and I think the best is yet to come. We’re seeing that next step of flexibility and strength and just fine-tuning that technique and it will be really fun to watch, not only next year but where her career and next throwing chapter takes her,” said Schmidt.