May 6, 2008
By Adam Walker, USC Upstate Media Relations Assistant
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - USC Upstate junior men's track and field athlete Marc Wartenberger is a man about campus whether he is spotted at a campus event or watching fellow Spartan athletes compete in other sports.
In the 2008-09 school year, his senior year at USC Upstate, Wartenberger will be seen around campus even more than in years past with his recent election as president of the Student Government Association (SGA). His election is believed to be the first time that a student-athlete has been elected to serve as president of the student body.
"I'm very excited to be the SGA president next year," Wartenberger said. "I'm look forward to this opportunity and the responsibility of representing the students of USC Upstate."
Wartenberger, a native of Wurzburg, Germany, who came to the United States as an international exchange student, arrived at USC Upstate with the intention to play men's basketball.
As a member of the Spartan men's basketball, Wartenberger played in 19 games and averaged 1.3 points per game and 1.2 rebounds per game in his freshman season as a member of the 2006 Peach Belt Conference Tournament Champions. He played sparingly in eight games during his sophomore year.
"We had a great year my first season at Upstate," Wartenberger said. "We went to the NCAA Division II tournament and that was a big deal. All of the guys on the team were great and I learned a lot that season."
It was after his sophomore year that Wartenberger heard about a new avenue that gained his interest with the formation of a track and field team at USC Upstate.
"(Marc and I) talked last year because I knew that he had been on a track and field team in high school and he approached me about being on the team," USC Upstate track and field head coach Jimmy Stephens said. "When you're building a program, you want to get as many athletes as you can. I knew he was a good athlete after watching him play basketball."
"There was talk on campus that a track and field team was being started and I contacted coach (Stephens) about being on the team," Wartenberger said. "I eventually switched from basketball to track, but I also liked staying it touch with basketball because it's been apart of my life for a long time."
Wartenberger decided to pursue track and field, but kept ties with the USC Upstate men's basketball team by becoming the team manager and traveling with the team to around the country including Alaska for the BP Top of the World Classic and Texas for the Sun Bowl Tournament.
"Being the team manager was great. We went all over the United States and the guys played great," Wartenberger said. "The schedule that we played this season was pretty hard and the games that we won, those teams were tough to beat."
Balancing his role as a basketball team manager, student and track and field athlete was not easy at first, particularly since he was learning all of the different events that a decathlete in track and field has to compete in. The decathlon is comprised of 10 events (shot put, javelin, discus, 100 meter dash, 110 meter hurdles, 400 meter dash, long jump, high jump, pole vault and 1500 meter run) that test both an athlete's endurance and mental strength.
"It was tough for Marc at first with the time constraints of being a manager on the basketball team and having to travel everywhere with them and fit your schooling in," Stephens said. "On top of that, he was trying to learn the events in the decathlon."
In his first major event at the Atlantic Sun Indoor Championships last February, Wartenberger finished eighth in the heptathlon including a second-place finish in the shot put portion of the event.
Wartenberger continued to improve and made some noise in his first decathlon at the 49er Classic in mid-March with finishing in 11th place including second-place finishes in the high jump and the shot put portions and third place in the discus.
Overall, Wartenberger feels like he surprised not only those who have watched him compete, but himself as well. Now, his focus turns toward May 16-17 when he will compete in the decathlon at the Atlantic Sun Conference Championships in Clemson, S.C.
"My first track season has been positively surprising," Wartenberger said. "We have a lot of great athletes competing well and I try to finish in the top-third in ever event I compete in. I've improved tremendously in every meet. I'm working to keep getting better and better each day.
"If you would've seen my progress over time, you would see a different person if you take the athlete that I was in the winter compared to the athlete that will compete at the (Atlantic Sun Conference) Championships. There is a day and night difference."
Stephens says that as well as talent, Wartenberger brings something that he was sorely looking for when he started building his team and that was someone who could step into a role of leadership.
"Marc has pulled everyone together and made sure everyone does well not only on our men's team, but our women's team as well. He has that type of personality that makes him a natural leader," Stephens said.
It was that type of personality that track and field assistant coach Ed Schlichter took notice of and presented an idea that also caught Wartenberger's interest.
"Coach Schlichter called me one day during the winter and said `Marc, you should run for SGA president,' and I told him he was crazy because there was no way I would win the election. But I thought about it and, eventually, decided to run," Wartenberger said.
Upon winning election, Wartenberger immediately realized that challenge that lays before him and that he must take advantage of it.
"Two things came to mind when I found out I was going to be SGA President. First, this is a great opportunity for a student-athlete because you can have great input and there are a lot of things I would like to do differently," Wartenberger said. "On the other hand, you now have responsibility to represent every student with their problems and their needs. It's going to be quite a challenge."
One idea that Wartenberger already has in mind is that he wants USC Upstate to be more recognized not only in the surrounding area, but on a bigger scale as well. He also believes that being athlete will help him work with other students in student government to achieve great things for the school.
"As a student-athlete, what I often experience when I travel and I wear my Upstate uniform, people come up to you and say, `Who is Upstate and where is Upstate?' They have no idea who and where we are and what we stand for," Wartenberger said. "That is something I would like to change and take it to a different level in terms of exposure. There are some people in the city of Spartanburg that still believe we are USC Spartanburg and that's something that has to change.
"I think that taking responsibility and team play are things that come into play in student government. You have to work well with others and it's the same way on a team."
Stephens says that he is proud that Wartenberger is not only representing his team, but all of the athletes at USC Upstate in student government and hopes that more will follow the example that he is setting.
"For every student, even if you are an athlete, you want to be part of the student body and excel in the classroom and the overall campus experience is what Marc wants and he wants to create more of it here," Stephens said. "I would like to see more of our student-athletes get involved in student government and committees on campus because that is part of the campus experience. With USC Upstate making the transition from a commuter campus to one that has the entire college experience, I think it is important for all of our students."
With a challenging senior year ahead of him, Wartenberger knows he will have to manage himself well with his time in the classroom, in track and field and in student government, but he feels that competing the decathlon has helped prepare him for what lies ahead.
"Being a multi-event athlete in track and field, you have to use your time well to focus on each event you have to compete in," Wartenberger said. "It's the same as being a student-athlete with class, practice and now student government. You really have to stay on top of things and I feel like I can do that."