May 23, 2008
With less than a week to go until the 2008 NCAA East Regional Championships, senior Matt Wernke sits down for a question and answer session with Seminoles.com. The Tallahassee-native is hoping to qualify for the NCAA Championships in front of his hometown crowd at the event that starts next Friday, May 30 at Mike Long Track. Wernke is the only Seminole thrower qualified to compete in the hammer throw with a 192’09.00″ mark, the third-longest in the ACC this season.
So, what actually is biomedical engineering and how did you pick that as a major?
“Biomedical engineering is actually a pretty broad term for a major. Some of the aspects involved in the major are designing prosthetics such as limbs, hearts and pacemakers or you can work with medicines. I am looking to get into designing prosthetics.”
When you receive your degree in biomedical engineering, what are your plans for the future?
“There are many different ways you can go with a degree in biomedical engineering. I am working at a really great internship right now at Benedict Engineering Company here in Tallahassee. The company works mostly with accident reconstruction but we have a few projects that we are trying to get started with designing prosthetics. You can become more design oriented in firms and that’s what I want to get into one day. The projects that I have been involved with have been in the design of below the elbow prosthetics where all of the damaged fingers will be able to actually work again and actually grab objects.”
How did you develop into/become a weight thrower?
“My grandfather was a pretty good shot putter in his day and that’s what initially drew me to the weight events. He competed in the Junior Olympics and he won a gold medal. That always made me want to try it and I took to it quickly.
Are you a football player turned track and field athlete or have you been a track and field athlete throughout your athletic career?
“I think it is a combination of both. I played football and was a member of the track and field team during each of my four years in high school. I can’t say it was one or the other. I really enjoyed playing football a lot. It wasn’t that track was second to football, they were both equal to each other. I became interested in track during my freshman year of high school and have been competing ever since.”
What position of positions did you play in football?
“I played football in high school. I played all three linebacker positions – strong, middle and weakside. I was a starter during my junior and senior seasons. I started on the strong side and play the will linebacker as a senior. I made the All-Big Bend team and was captain my senior year.”
What is more important in your events, strength or technique? Or are both equally important?
“I think technique plays the major role in the success of the thrower in track and field. There are throwers who are not as strong as their competition who can throw just as far if not farther then their stronger opponents. As far as strength, it plays a role, but I feel that explosion is more important in throwing longer. The ability to accelerate rapidly and control our acceleration is, in my mind, how you become a better thrower. When I am practicing I work more on technique, definitely”
Which is your favorite event – the shot put, the hammer throw or the 35-lb weight throw?
“I primarily participate in the hammer and the weight throw. My favorite is the hammer throw. I like the hammer and the weight throw but throwing the weight puts a lot of strain on your back so a lot of injuries come with throwing the weight. The hammer just looks cooler when it flies because it goes so far.”
What are the differences between the hammer throw and the 35-lb weight throw?
“The main difference is the length and the weight of the two objects. The hammer is longer and has a wire where the weight doesn’t. You have to be a little bit more patient when you are throwing the hammer because you have to wait for it to get all the way around your body. You try not to let the ball get ahead of your body rather you let the ball turn you and you add speed to the ball.”
Have you ever hit anybody with one of your throws?
“I always check the field to make sure everyone is looking and paying attention to our part of the field. But accidents do happen. I think I once hit an official with a wire because he was standing too close. I didn’t try to hit him; he was just in the way.”
Do you prefer indoor or outdoor competition? Why?
“I would have to say outdoor. The hammer is the outdoor event and the weight throw is the indoor event. Additionally, being outside is a lot more fun for me.”
Are weight throwers like kickers on the football team – off on their own?
“We practice out near the engineering campus here at Florida State with puts us away from our teammates and away from the track but I feel that we are pretty close knit with all of the runners and jumpers. We work pretty hard and try to keep our practice sessions pretty serious.”
What is your training regimen? Lifting and throwing or is aerobic training involved?
“In the fall we do a lot of both weight work and aerobic work. Much of our training is also technique work. We do a lot of strength work in the weight room and we do a lot of aerobic exercises. Specifically we do a lot of short sprint work and jumps. We have a lot of jump days during practice. We do a lot of hurdle jumps which forces us to work in exploding off of the ground as soon as you come down. It works your legs and trains them to become as explosive as possible.”
What motivates you to be good at what you do?
“I have a fierce competitive nature and I hate to lose. That’s definitely the first thing that motivates me. I don’t like to get beat and that drives me. I’m never really satisfied with my throws; I could throw a big personal record and I will look at my coach and immediately know what was wrong with that throw or what could be better with that. No throw will ever be perfect; there is always something you can improve on. Those two things combined make me want to be better each day.”
What else are you involved at Florida State?
“I am a member of AICHE – the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. The chemical engineering and biomedical engineering departments are together at Florida State. We meet a couple of time a month and work on engineering projects.”
What has been the greatest challenge for you this year on the track team? How have you overcome any challenges the past few years on the team?
“I would say fighting injury. I had a slight back injury during the fall season. I was able to fight through it and didn’t have to miss any practices or meets. I had to be really diligent with being in the weight room and taking heat before my workouts and ice afterwards. I had to make sure I stretched more. I was never big into stretching but I am now because it helps me stay healthy.”
What are your athletic goals before your collegiate career comes to an end?
“I have one year of collegiate competition left and I would like to be a national qualifier by the end of this season. We will find that out in two weeks at the regional when they are held here in Tallahassee. I would also like to be a national qualifier in my final season of competition and set the school records in both the weight and the hammer. I feel like I can do that.”
What’s it like to be a member of a national championship team?
“It’s incredible. It’s an honor to just be able to watch some of our guys just run around the track. That you know you are going to see almost all of them in the Olympics this summer is incredible. Just knowing that your team is the best out there is pretty cool. We have a pretty good shot of winning the national title again this year.”
If you could choose one other track and field event to participate in which would it be?
“I would have to say I would like to throw the javelin or participate in the triple jump. I have always thought the javelin looks pretty cool when it flies through the air and I think I could be really good at it. The triple jump is one of the most impressive events in the sport and one of the most difficult to be really good at. I have tried to do the triple jump and my legs just want to buckle. I don’t know if it’s the weight that I have but I think the triple jumpers are really cool to watch.”
How satisfying is it for you, as an original walk-on member of the team, to play such a big role in this team winning championships?
“It’s pretty neat. It’s nice to be able to be a part of such a successful team. I have worked pretty hard and actually earned a scholarship this year. It was nice to be able to get the scholarship and be able to be recognized on such a powerful team.”
Will you feel any added pressure during the NCAA East Regional Championship because it is being held on your home field in your hometown?
“I want to say no and approach the regional meet just like any other meet. I never like to lose at home and I always want to defend the home turf. I am definitely going to try to win but there are going to be a lot of great throwers coming in for the meet. I would like to qualify for nationals and if I can do that I’ll be happy.”
If you weren’t a star in track and field on the Division I level what others sports could you excel at in college?
“I have though a little bit about playing football here at Florida State. When I get together with my high school friends we always talk about how much we miss football. I often think about trying out but I have made a decision about actually going out for the team.”
Questions by Associate Sports Information Director Chuck Walsh