Wolverine Athlete Spotlight: Joanna Fleming
Joanna Fleming

Jan. 31, 2014

Fifth-year senior thrower Joanna Fleming discusses the excitement of competing in a dual meet with Michigan State, her struggles with injury throughout her career and pursuing her master's degree at U-M.

On the difference between competing in a dual meet vs. a large invitational ... "I would say there is more of a rivalry there because there is only one other school and it's Michigan State. Not that, we don't get pumped up for Big Tens, but for the dual, everyone gets more intense and we come together really close as a team. It's head-to-head, everything is more obvious, you can see everybody and what they're doing. The rivalry is so big, you get really tense and really pumped up and excited. As a team, a meet like this helps a lot because we using this as a warm up for Big Tens. The seniors have already talked to the team about having a mindset like it's Big Tens because this is what it will feel like. It's important that we all watch each other when we're competing and cheer each other on."

On the feeling of winning the dual last year ... "We don't get a lot of scored meets so it was pretty awesome, especially because it was early in the season. In track, it's hard to keep track of whether you're winning or not because the only scored meets we go to are the dual and Big Tens. The scoring aspect makes it more competitive because you know where you stand as a team. You can keep track and see how good you're doing or what you need to do to get there. It makes it more intense and more fun -- I wish they were all scored like that.

On the dual meet being 20 minutes from her hometown of Grand Haven, Mich. ... "I definitely have a lot of friends and family who are coming to support me and cheer me on. That makes me super excited and makes we want to PR. Last year I had a personal record at the dual meet and I think it's because my friends and family were there cheering me on. It really pumped me up and motivated me to do even better so that was awesome."


On the importance of a balanced team ... "I think we're more balanced than we have been in the past, especially with the throwers and the sprints. Even at Big Tens, I think we have a chance to score in every event. At the dual, from a throwers standpoint, we're looking to take 1-2 in the weight because I feel like that's our stronger suit for indoor season. But the shot putters are getting there and they can definitely take 1-2 on Saturday, too. I personally love the dual because I have yet to score at the Big Ten meet. At the dual, it's great to see that I scored and contributed. I'm planning on doing a lot more at Big Tens this year as well."

On earning her bachelor's in industrial & operations engineering in December and starting grad school ... "Getting my undergraduate degree in engineering was a huge accomplishment. It was a big dream of mine. My dad is an engineer and went to Michigan, too. That's how I got interested in engineering, was through him. The engineering program I'm in is No. 2 in the country right now, so on graduation day, I was beyond happy to get my bachelor's. The day I found out I got accepted here at U-M for my master's, I cried. I came to practice crying and it was a great feeling. I went home that weekend and surprised my parents and told them. It was a huge life accomplishment for me. It's challenging being in grad school right now and being on the track team, but competing and going to grad school are both dreams of mine that I'm not going to give up on. I'm going to succeed in both!"

On her future plans after completing her master's program ... "With my degree, I'm eventually planning to go out on my own as an independent consultant, either in manufacturing or health care. Basically what I do, is I go look at companies or hospital systems and see how they can be more efficient and build quality into their processes or products. For me, I love that because it's a lot of statistics and a lot of thinking outside the box. It challenges me every day. My dream job once I complete my master's degree is to work at a big consulting firm so I can travel around the country for several months at a time."

On her struggles with injury throughout her career and being healthy this season ... "Knock on wood, but this is my first year that I'm actually healthy. I've town my ALC twice and it's actually partially torn right now. Being fully healthy for a full year, I feel like I'm actually really able to give it 100 percent and nothing is holding me back right now. I do believe this is going to be my best year. I haven't been able to do what I know I'm capable of doing, which is why I'm super excited for this year -- I wish it wasn't my last year. It all happened for a reason -- it was an emotional rollercoaster for me, but after tearing my ACL two-and-a-half times, I was determined not to let it get in my way of my goal, which is ultimately break the school record in the hammer. I haven't left my mark on the track yet, so that's why I'm still here."

• Previous Spotlight: Taylor Manett

Contact:Whitney Dixon (whitdix@umich.edu)