The NCAA meet is just one of several big things on Jason Swenson’s Plate

A senior, Swenson has the javelin to thank for a lot of the good things in his life.

by David McCoy

Good thing Jason Swenson picked the javelin.

It seems all the good things in Swenson’s life can be traced back to the ancient Greek throwing stick in one way or another.

Swenson, a Minnesota men’s track and field athlete who also competes in the heptathlon, said he got interested in throwing the javelin from a high school friend.

“When I was in high school, all I wanted to do was long jump, maybe high jump,” Swenson said. “And it came down to it that I went there the first day of track, and there was no long jump or high jump coach.

“I was going back, and my ride was a really weird kid, and he was like, ‘Check this out, they let us throw spears!’ So I picked it up, and the very first time I threw it, I already made varsity.”

But Swenson’s spear throwing has also led to quite a crazy situation for him lately.

In the past couple months, Swenson has been finishing up his electrical engineering degree, graduating from the Institute of Technology, trying to secure a job, attempting to qualify for NCAAs at Midwest Regionals and planning his wedding – all while trying to keep his cat and seven pet tortoises alive.

Oh and by the way – Swenson is also competing at this week’s NCAA Championships in Sacramento, Calif., in the javelin. He’ll try to qualify for finals at 3 p.m. today.

“He’s lucky he has me as a coach,” Gophers coach Phil Lundin said. “Sometimes I think track is third or fourth on the list, but that’s how it goes when you’re trying to graduate and have a lot of different things going on.”

Don’t be misled: Swenson counts each and every one of his endeavors as a gift.

But it certainly gets to be overwhelming when they’re coming all at once.

“It’s stressful, I would say,” Swenson said. “I’m not usually the type who’d be prone to stress. But that’s a lot to think about I guess. I’m a nerd, so I unwind a lot with video games.”

Though sometimes stressful, Swenson probably owes the biggest thanks for all his blessings to that pointy stick.

Along with the enjoyment of competing for national titles, Swenson met his fiancee Nadine Conboy through track and field. She ran for Minnesota for three years.

He’s also got a college degree made possible by a track and field scholarship. Even his new job, which Swenson said he’s pretty sure he’s got locked up after a promising meeting Saturday, is due to his timber tossing talents.

He meets with management at Manny’s Electronic Interiors in Edina, Minn., on Monday to finalize things, but he said he got the job in part because teammate Travis Brandstatter is dating the manager’s daughter.

“I kind of got an in through there,” Swenson said. “I never would have known about this place otherwise.”

That’s everything but the tortoises, which have become quite a fixture in Swenson’s and Conboy’s small apartment in Dinkytown.

What started out in December 2003 as Scooter and Dmitri – “They’re Russian tortoises so I needed to have a Russian name,” Swenson said – quickly evolved into Scooter, Dmitri, Dozer, Wiggles, Nibbler, Trogdor and Biscuit. Swenson said he also goes to the zoo at least twice a week in the summer.

Conboy said she found Scooter and Dmitri in a newspaper ad and “let him get them.”

A year later, Swenson proposed.

“One of the ironies in life, I actually proposed right around the same time that we got the tortoises a year later,” Swenson said. “So they’re our marriage tortoises.”

Swenson and Conboy are set to wed July 23 on the Paradise Lady yacht between the East and West Banks campus’ and will be exchanging vows in a little gazebo on shore.

With Swenson’s crazy schedule, Conboy has had to do most of the planning. But she said she doesn’t mind at all.

“He’s was busy – classes, track, job, programming. So I knew he had a full plate,” Conboy said. “He just needs a little extra support sometimes.”

The craziness for Swenson is starting to die down, with this week’s NCAA Championships the next check mark on the list.

But he said the person he’s marrying for the final check mark, not track and field, is what he couldn’t have done it all without – no matter what it all started with.

“I don’t think I could have passed school, I don’t think I could have done this in track and I don’t think I could have a job right now if it wasn’t for her, quite frankly,” Swenson said. “She’s definitely the one behind it all.”