June 22, 2005

Vegetarian Thrower Gets Big for Gauchos

June 22, 2005

Not too many national class athletes are vegetarians with meats providing a great, easy source of essential proteins, vitamins and minerals. An even smaller percentage are vegetarian throwers. Some find it difficult to take the time to ensure they are getting everything they need from each meal and others just flatly believe you will not be as strong. Matthew Barkley (Fr.) out of Sunnyvale, CA fits into this small minority challenging the critics.

Each Track & Field discipline requires one to master different capacities of the human body. The sprints display speed and power, the distance events demonstrate endurance, the jumps show hang time and the throws exhibit strength and coordination. A Track & Field athlete must specifically identify, develop and train specific muscle groups in such a way that it gets the most out of a narrowly defined motion.

Barkley knew what effort it would take to compete at the Division I level and in a tough Big West throws conference. Coming in as a freshman just under 200 pounds he was powerful but not big enough to maximize his own personal strength. Throws coach John Dagata and Barkley identified that he would need to get bigger to accomplish his goals at UCSB.

However, being a vegetarian Dagata had his reservations about his ability to do so. "Well, I told him he needed to get bigger but I did not think he would do what he did so fast without eating meat. I have never worked with a vegetarian so I did not think about his options for gaining weight. I'm thinking he sits around and eats vegetables all day long."

Barkley decided to become a vegetarian eight years ago. "My older brother stopped eating meat and I followed suit. I decided I did not want to support the meat industry due to certain values I hold," Barkley commented. He went about putting on the weight methodically.

"I ate lots of pasta, pizza and bagels; high fat foods," Barkley stated. "I ate a meal every three hours and every night before I went to bed I would eat a lot of food. It was tough in the beginning but as the weeks went by it got easier."

He managed to put on fifty-seven pounds in his freshman season. "Looking back at it, I feel as if I told him to jump off Storke Tower, he would do it," Dagata states. That best explains what it took to put on the weight he did."

Continually gaining strength throughout his freshman season at UCSB, it all came together when he launched a 53-06.75" foot (16.33m) throw in the shot put on April 30th in San Luis Obispo. That toss qualified him for the USA Junior National Championships taking place this weekend beginning Thursday, June 23rd at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA.

In order to qualify for USA Junior Nationals Barkley had not only eaten a lot to get stronger and hit the qualifying mark, but also not turn twenty in 2005. In order to qualify a junior must hit the standard of 57-09 feet (17.60m) with the 6kg (13.21lbs.) shot, the world junior weight for the shot put. Where it gets a little confusing is that as a U.S. high school athlete, male throwers toss a 12lb. shot put and when they move up to the University level, they begin to throw the Olympic weight of 16lbs. Those qualifying marks are at 59-05 feet (18.11m) and 53-0 feet (16.15m) respectively.

Barkley's personal best this season was with the sixteen pound shot. He now has the luxury along with other junior collegiate athletes to go down almost three pounds and chuck it as far as they can. Barkley is set to compete at 9:30am on Thursday, June 23rd. This year's National Championships also serves as the qualifying meet for the 2005 Pan American Junior Athletics Championships to be held in Windsor, Ontario, Canada from July 28th-31st.

With competitors qualifying using different weights it is a little harder to grasp how they are ranked going in. On his chances Barkley remarked, "It's an open field, I just have to get my work done and put it all out there."

In 2005 he finished 8th at the Big West Championships in a deep Shot Put competition back in May nailing a valuable point for the Gauchos. Competing at Junior Nationals was not an ultimate goal for Barkley with the focus of the season on the Conference Championships. With his qualifier, he now gets to showcase his talent on the national stage for himself and the Gauchos.