With a win this past Saturday at the Denison University Lid-Lifter meet, Carnegie Mellon men’s track and field team is already off to a good start from last year’s conference title victory, winning 10 out of 15 individual events. The Tartan interviewed Joel Palko, a veteran team member in both jumping and running events, on what it’s like to be a student athlete at Carnegie Mellon and his thoughts on the promising 2008 season.

Tartan: When did you first start participating in track and field? Any certain inspiration?
Palko: Around the age of 10, I participated in a local track and field club. I would have to say my dad kind of pushed me into track and field. He is a jumping coach at my former high school.

T: What goals do you feel the team has for this season?
P: We had a great season last year. Everyone on the team really picked up their game for the outdoor season and with some big help from a few freshmen, we ended up winning the conference title. We are going to try and repeat that championship.

T: Are there any meets that you are especially excited for this season?
P: I get more excited for the outdoor track meets, in particular the conference meet, because it is usually one of the last meets of the season and means the most to the team. Washington University has always been one of our bigger rivals. It feels especially good when we defeat them.

T: If you could change something about Carnegie Mellon as a student athlete, what would it be?
P: More athletic facilities. They are all so crowded.

T: Do you feel that participating in a sport has helped you manage schoolwork?
P: Participating in a sport helps to keep me focused, but I would have to say that I lose a lot of sleep during the season, too. In general I think it has helped me keep good grades.

T: What made did you decide to major in ChemE and BME?
P: I knew engineering was for me because I am a logical thinker and had some natural ability at calculus and the sciences. I started out as a ChemE/BME and just never looked back.

T: Are you in any clubs or other organizations on campus?
P: I am a member of DOCS [Doctors of Carnegie Society] and spend a lot of time involved with the “Best Buddies” organization here at CMU.

T: If you weren’t running track, is there another sport that you would be interested in competing in?
P: I played basketball and football in high school as well as track, and loved playing all three. Basketball is probably the next closest to my heart.

T: Do you have any memorable or entertaining stories since being a Carnegie Mellon track team member?
P: Too many good times to pick just one, but there have been some experiences that I would not trade for the world! I would have to say the memory that will probably stick with me the longest will be standing up on the podium after winning the conference meet last spring.

T: What would you like to do with your major for a career?
P: I plan on going to medical school after I graduate from CMU, so I think the problem-solving skills I learned as an engineer will help me in the future. I haven’t looked into specific schools too closely yet. University of Pittsburgh is a possibility, as well as some schools in North Carolina. I like Pitt because of its strength in research and the schools in North Carolina because they are not in Pittsburgh.