April 3, 2012
BEAUMONT, Texas -
This spring has been a whirlwind of activity and excitement for Lamar University junior Matt Johnsen.
Johnsen, who was recently named the Southland Conference Runner of the Year for men's indoor track, added to his honors by being named the conference's Student-Athlete of the Year for men's indoor track Tuesday. On top of that, Johnsen, who was also named the Student-Athlete of the Year in men's cross country by the conference, recently learned he will be representing his native Australia later this month at the World University Cross Country Championships in Lodz, Poland.
"I'm over the moon about having the opportunity to compete for my country," Johnsen said. "It's truly an honor."
An honor and an opportunity well deserved according to Lamar track and cross country coach Trey Clark.
"When Matt asked me if he should apply for consideration, I told him he definitely should," Clark said. "I told him we would do whatever we could to help him."
Johnsen flies to Poland on Monday for the cross country meet on April 14.
"There will be about 28 nations competing," he said. "I'm looking forward to the race and to meeting new people."
Johnsen is the latest of a number of Lamar track and cross country student-athletes to represent their country.
"When international students come to Lamar to compete, their goal is to represent their country," Clark said. "They know we're going to do everything we can to help them achieve that goal."
Johnsen believes the training he's received while at Lamar has been a key factor in his improvement.
"Back home, I was often on my own," he said. "I was ranked in the top five back in Australia. Here, the competition is much tougher. I'm just another number. The environment is much more intense."
Johnsen has succeeded athletically at Lamar. This fall, he was second at the Southland Conference Cross Country Championships, leading the Cardinals to their sixth consecutive team title. During the indoor track season, he won the conference title in the 5,000 meters with a time of 14 minutes, 40.74 seconds, nearly 10 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher. He was second in the 3,000 meters in 8:26.36.
On top of that, Johnsen boasts a 3.31 grade-point average in kinesiology.
"It's one thing to be good in sports, but it's important to be good in academics as well," Johnsen said. "One of the reasons I chose Lamar was because of the academics the school offered."
As a coach, Clark loves having Johnsen as a member of the Cardinals.
"Matt Johnsen represents everything that is right about college athletics," Clark said. "He's a tremendous, athlete, a tremendous student and a tremendous person. He is the type of student-athlete you're proud to coach."