April 4, 2012
Junior javelin thrower Luke Hadden joined the Vols this season, transferring to UT from Wake Forest to study forestry. The former ACC standout is adjusting quite nicely to competing in the tall timber of the SEC.
Hadden, whose dad threw at Ohio State, has been interested in throwing since fourth grade, when he discovered some of his dad's old javelins. He will compete for UT at two home meets over the next two weekends, at the Tennessee Challenge and Sea Ray Relays. He enters this weekend with a season-best mark of 201 feet, eight inches.
When did you know you wanted to compete in track and field?
"My dad threw in college, and he had these old javelins and old pictures. After I got hit in the face with a baseball about three times playing little league, I decided it was time to switch and do something different. I switched around fourth grade."
When did you start training to throw, and when did you begin strength training for it?
"I've been really serious about it for a while. I did the summer meets. I would say I got really serious about it in seventh grade."
How do you learn to throw javelin?
"Like I said, my dad threw in college at Ohio State. He was my coach from the starting point until I came to college."
Have you ever played any other sports?
"I played football in high school. I played basketball for a few years. I did indoor track and Nordic skiing."
You got a PR in your first meet of the season. Do you think that sets the tone for your season?
"Honestly, I was really happy to PR. It was the first time since my first throw of my freshman year (at Wake Forest). It wasn't quite what I was shooting for, but I'll take a small step over nothing."
You chose to leave Wake Forest to come compete at Tennessee. What caused you to come here?
"It was mostly the academic side of things. I was a biology major, and I want to do land management and forestry. UT has one of the best programs for that in the country."
Is there a difference between ACC and SEC competition?
"SEC is a whole other level. The past two years, I finished fifth and sixth in the ACC. This year, I'm sitting tenth, with a possibility I may not make finals if I don't keep progressing. It's a huge step up, and hopefully I can take that challenge."
Vermont is obviously very different from Tennessee. What is the biggest difference you've noticed between home and Knoxville?
"Honestly, whenever people ask me why I came down here, it was very much like home. Obviously, there are a few more people here. My hometown has 900 people in it and no stop light. That's the biggest change. I also have to get used to y'all and eating grits every day. It's like home when you get outside of Knoxville. I've done some exploring and hiking in the Smokies. Coming to these little towns and experiencing the hospitality does remind me of home. Anyone would give you the shirt of their back in a heartbeat, here and at home."
Do you have any pre-throw or pre-meet superstitions or rituals?
"I usually go out to the 60-meter mark, which has been a big barrier for me for a while. I usually pull up a little grass, roll it up, and put it in my trainers."
Do you get nervous before you throw?
"For big meets, I do. I think nervousness is a big part of competing. It lets you know why you're here and why you're excited to be throwing. I do get nervous, but not to the extent that I used to."
What do you think about during a throw?
"Honestly, from the point that I start running, until I release it, I try not to think of anything. I just try to stay loose. The bottom line is, you've had an entire year or more of training, and you don't need to be thinking when you're on the runway."
What's your favorite thing about throwing javelin?
"The places you get to go and the people you get to meet. We went out to UCLA last weekend, and that was my first time to L.A. L.A. is definitely a different place."
Do fans and cheering affect your throwing at all?
"Not so much. I get a little more nervous when my dad is there, just because the expectations go up another notch. The biggest thing I enjoy of fan support is having my team there. Javelin isn't a very exciting event to watch, so there isn't a lot of cheering going on."
If you could try any track and field event other than throwing, what would you want to try?
"I would have to say the 400. The 400 or the 800. My roommate last year ran the 800, and he's got more guts than anyone I've ever come across. After every race, he's lying in the middle of the track. That's something I could never do. In those two events, you have to give it all or nothing."
What do you like to do in Knoxville when you aren't in class or training?
"I try to get out and hike. I have a dog, so I have to run him and give him some exercise. I usually go to the lake and let him run around in the woods."
What is your favorite sport to play, or just watch, other than track?
"I'm a big fan of college football. I think there's a big change between college and professional sports. Just knowing that someone is the same age that I am, on such a big stage like Neyland Stadium or anywhere, is pretty cool to watch."
Who are some athletes you admire?
"Andreas Thorkildsen. He's the number one jav thrower in the country right now. I'm a big fan of Tim Tebow, just because he's a real straightforward athlete. He's a real competitor."
Do you have any nicknames?
"Coach Frazier's been calling me Nature Boy recently. That stuck, somehow."
What's something interesting about you that many people may not know?
"I have two goats at home. My parents are both vets. I grew up going on farm calls and being around animals."
What's the one thing you can't live without?
"A comfortable bed to get some rest in."
What would be on the dinner table and who would be there if you were having your ideal meal?
"I would have my entire family, both my mom's and dad's sides. My girlfriend would be there. My dog would be under the table, waiting for food. I'm a big family guy, so I'd try to get all of my close relatives there."
What are your expectations for the season?
"I'd like to make it to the NCAA Preliminary Rounds. Right now I'm sitting 42nd, and they take top 48. I'm hoping to progress. I threw around 61 meters (201-8) at the first meet, and I'm hoping to step it up in the next couple weeks. I want to hit around 66 meters (about 214 feet)."
What is your major, and what are your favorite classes?
"I'm a forestry major. I'm in a forest economics class right now, which is something I'm thinking about for grad school, so I really enjoy that."
What do you want to do when you graduate?
"I would like to do prescribed burning, so wilderness fire out west somewhere. I'd like to do that for a few years before I have to settle down and be a big kid. Then I'll sit behind a desk and do economics for a while."