After staying in a village with elite athletes from around the world and walking out to an opening ceremony in front of a crowd of about 50,000, Mike Woepse could only describe the experience as Olympic-like.
This July, the rising senior pole vaulter was selected to represent the United States in the 2013 World University Games in Kazan, Russia, with athletes varying in age from 18 to 27.
“To be in front of all these people doing my favorite thing in the world and to have the opportunity to do it wearing a USA uniform was an unbelievable experience,” Woepse said.
Although he described his ninth place finish out of 11 pole vaulters as disappointing, Woepse did not let the results taint the experience and instead viewed it as motivation.
“Just to have a taste of it makes you hungry for it,” Woepse said. “I’ve always dreamed of being in this situation so it was a dream come true, but it also made me realize that these goals I have are not too far out of reach.”
After coming back from Russia, Woepse will only rest for one week before he begins training for the NCAA season. He has already created a mental list of goals for himself that includes making the national team.
Having worked with Woepse the past three years, volunteer jumps coach Anthony Curran said that Woepse is one of the most committed athletes he’s ever coached and has no doubts that he can reach his loftiest goals.
“He has everything it takes; obviously since there’s only three people in the entire United States that makes the Olympic team, it’s always going to be a tough thing to do,” Curran said. “But if there’s anybody who has the ability, the strength, the power and the mind, it’s Mike Woepse.”
As a teammate and roommate for the past three years, rising senior hammer thrower Alec Faldermeyer said he couldn’t have been happier for Woepse to make the World University Games, and that he also sees a bright future for the pole vaulter.
“Obviously he’s going to be enjoying a professional career after this, I would imagine, with how talented he is, so that is just a big stepping stone in the right direction for him,” Faldermeyer said.
Both Faldemeyer and Curran cited hard work as the main reason why they believe Woepse can reach his goals.
“Nobody, nobody outworks Mike, nobody,” Faldermeyer said. “I’ve never met a person who’s worked harder every single day. No matter how he’s feeling, he’s out doing his full workout, going above and beyond the call.”
Woepse said he does not plan to stop after this summer’s glimpse into what could be his future.
“It ended up being 10 times more of an experience than I could ever imagine it being,” Woepse said. “I’ll remember it for the rest of my life and something that I’ll chase to be able to do again for the rest of my life.”