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Roberts throws himself into the javelin

Placer grad working to reach potential in new event at UC Davis
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
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Matt Roberts is used to having long, straight objects in his hands when competing in track and field events. In high school, he used them to propel himself over metal bars raised high off the ground. Nowadays, he throws them. A pole vaulter during his days at Placer High, Roberts now competes in the javelin throw for UC Davis. “It was definitely a huge transition,” Roberts said. “I had to train a lot. California doesn’t do (the javelin) in high school, so I had a lot of catching up to do with guys from Oregon and Washington who did do it in high school.” When Roberts first arrived at UC Davis, Aggies head coach Jon Vochatzer used him in the decathlon. Of the 10 events that comprise the decathlon, however, the javelin was the one for which Roberts seemed best suited. “He’s got a quick arm,” Vochatzer said. “For a guy his size (6 feet, 215 pounds), he’s got a great gun. “What was hurting Matt in the decathlon was his speed. Matt’s not a real fast guy, so at the end of the year we decided that he would only continue in the javelin. It’s worked out very, very well for him.” Roberts still has a ways to go to catch up to the elite collegiate javelin throwers. The qualifying standard for the NCAA Division I national meet is greater than 200 feet, and Roberts’ best throw this season has gone 163 by his estimate. Roberts has yet to finish higher than third at a dual meet or the middle of the pack at a larger meet. Still, what Roberts lacks in experience or technical skill in the javelin throw, he makes up for with a willingness to learn and an outstanding work ethic. UC Davis throwers coach Tim Fua calls Roberts “a student of the sport” – and if Roberts’ progress is measured in terms of his speedy development in a short time instead of medals and long throws, Roberts would get an A in his coaches’ eyes. “He’s really blossomed,” Vochatzer said. “It’s (the product of) a lot of self-learning, a lot of watching video… a lot of time in the weight room, and a lot of one-on-one teaching with Tim Fua.” “He’s a great kid to work with,” Fua said. “He’s coachable, and he works his (rear end) off. If I had 10 of those guys, I’d be sitting pretty good.” Roberts doesn’t see any of the time he puts into the javelin throw as work. “Watching video is a pastime,” he said. “Anytime I have a free moment away from studying I’m watching javelin videos and (doing) training stuff. I enjoy it — that’s why I do it.” Roberts’ coaches believe he has a big throw in him any day now — and with the Big West Championships coming up Friday and Saturday in Irvine, the timing couldn’t be better. “He might very well make a 20-foot jump right quick,” Fua said. “He’s ready to pop.” Now a junior at UC Davis, Roberts is majoring in exercise biology. He hopes to go on to medical school after he graduates and become a reconstructive surgeon. In the short term Roberts is focused on placing among the top eight at the Big West Conference meet this season and possibly advancing to the NCAA Division I West Region meet next year. Those goals are definitely within reach, according to Vochatzer. “Matt’s always pushing himself to try to do the best he possibly can,” the Aggies’ head coach said. “He goes 100 percent all the time. Every time he steps up there (to make a throw), he’s full bore, all the time. There’s never any slack time with Matt.” “I’ve always believed that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” Roberts said. “I may not be the most talented guy out there, but I work hard.”