"Whenever I'm at the end of practice and something's hard, I just think about that. I don't want to be average. I want to be great. And I know that to do that, every little drill matters. Every little throw, every lift, every ab workout, everything. It really pushes me."
By Logan Stanley - MileSplit
Mensi Stiff knows what she wants.
The 17-year-old from Brentwood Academy (TN) unleashed a throw of 51 feet, 10.75 inches on Feb. 6 in the shot put at the Tennessee State Indoor Championships to put herself No. 2 on the all-time list for juniors.
She wants that last distinction -- No. 2 -- to be removed, though.
Stiff wants to be at the top.
"I just want to be the best," said Stiff, who won the shot put with a throw of 49-4.5 at the UK High School Invitational this past weekend. "I don't want there to have to be something coming after that, like, 'Oh, well she was the best junior. She was the best in high school.' I just want to be the best thrower, ever. Period. I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to win."
Stiff's most recent throw was the result of a build up that began last spring, which saw her break a 37-year-old state record in the outdoor shot put (48-11.50). In the process, she also set a new Division II state record in the outdoor discus (153-8).
Her career began much earlier than that, though, back in the sixth grade when she first started out in track and field.
It wasn't necessarily by choice that Stiff found the sport. Since Brentwood Academy requires its students to be involved in athletics, she needed something to do in the spring -- and track it was. Stiff grew up playing basketball, so she actually ran the 400m as her first official event.
She quickly shifted to field events.
"I didn't know what it [shot put and discus] was," Stiff said. "I went home and looked it up, and the movie Matilda -- the evil character, Miss Grindelwald or whatever [the character's name is Miss Trunchbull] -- popped up [in a meme], and I got really upset about it. I started crying. I was like, 'Is this what people think I look like?'"
Initially, Stiff was not happy that she had to throw.
"I just want to be the best. I don't want there to have to be something coming after that, like, 'Oh, well she was the best junior. She was the best in high school.' I just want to be the best thrower, ever. Period. I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to win." - Mensi Stiff
While she continued to do the sport, she admittedly wasn't giving it all of her effort. Stiff ended middle school with personal bests of 40-4 and 73-0 in the shot put and discus, respectively.
It wasn't until she met her current coach, Steve Wade, in 2020 that she began to look at herself in a different light.
"He completely changed my life," Stiff said about Wade. "I kind of stopped caring about what people thought of me. He has been the best person ever. And I got a lot more serious about it."
Stiff nearly doubled her personal best in the discus between 2019 and 2020, going from 69-7 to 138-02.
But the far throws Stiff is capable of now? They were still just a distant thought at the time.
It took a certain speech from another coach at Brentwood, Mark Sutton, to change her perspective.
"About a year ago, he [Sutton] told me there are three types of athletes," Stiff said. "The first type of athlete is your most common and they're the ones who kinda just show up to practice and they just want to get through it. They don't really care.
"Then you have your second, which is a little more rare, and they'll put in effort into it. They'll be like, 'Okay, you know what? I can do something with this.'"
"And then you have your third type of athlete. Those are the ones that are rare. Those are the ones that do something great. [Sutton] said, 'Those are the ones that they come in and try to win every single drill, every single sprint. Whatever their coach gives them, they're trying to win. That's kind of stuck with me. So whenever I'm at the end of practice and something's hard, I just think about that. I don't want to be average. I want to be great. And I know that to do that, every little drill matters. Every little throw, every lift, every ab workout, everything. It really pushes me."
It is this attention to detail that drives Stiff's love for the sport.
To those on the outside, throwing an 8.8-pound metal ball may not seem that rewarding. But for Stiff, it's the exact opposite.
"I love every aspect of it," Stiff said. "The lifting, the running -- you do so much just for three seconds, or three throws in a ring. I work almost every day, for hours. You work to get that perfect technique just to be in a seven-foot little circle."
"But then whenever you know that when you hit it, you know that you got in the right position, you know that you hit a throw. You don't get them every day. You don't get them every week. Sometimes they don't come for a period of a month. You work so, so hard for something and when you finally get it, it's addicting.
"You just want to keep working harder. You want to see, how far can I throw it?"
This dedication has propelled Stiff's ascent in the sport and is a reason why she has already committed to Ole Miss as a junior.
Stiff is the latest collegiate athlete in her family, following in the footsteps of her father Jimmy (quarterback at the University of Tennessee from 1981 to 1984) and older sister McKinley (currently a forward on the soccer team at Southern Illinois University).
Despite already setting another state record this early in the calendar, Stiff is just getting started with her quest this season.
Next up for her is Angie Barker's Tennessee discus record at 155-08. But Stiff's sights are set way beyond that.
She wants the national records for both shot put and discus before she's done at Brentwood. Alyssa Wilson's 2017 shot put mark stands at 58-1. The discus mark of 198-9 was set back in 2012 by Shelbi Vaughan.
Who knows if she will get there.
But she knows what she wants, and she won't settle for anything less.
MORE ON MENSI
Just how dedicated is Stiff to throwing? In February, while training inside a school gymnasium, she hurled the shot put with such force that it broke a glass backboard. The video has racked up over two million views on MileSplit Tennessee's Tik Tok page.