Gator athlete combines passion for strawberries with the javelin

A University of Florida graduate student uses the wide-open spaces of the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Wimauma to pursue his academic and athletic passions.  

Mike Porter is working on his Ph.D. in plant breeding and needs the center’s massive strawberry fields for his doctoral research.

"My project is to find out what makes a strawberry flavorful," Porter stated.  "Why that flavor is unique, and how we can make more flavorful strawberries in the future."

When the research experiments are done for the day, Porter head outs to the huge fields not occupied by strawberries and throws the javelin. Porter can throw it 242 feet or more than 80 yards.

That distance lends itself to contemplation. Porter works solo and has to retrieve his throws.

"It takes a lot of focus and hand-eye coordination, so not so different than the javelin, I suppose," he shared.  

Porter is competing for the University of Florida Track & Field team. He came to the Gators as a grad student. His undergrad work at Penn State saw him win the Big Ten title in the Javelin in last year's conference championships.

Porter’s first meet with the Florida team will be the Pepsi Florida relays on March 31.

The next time you taste a strawberry, ask yourself: "Could this possibly be more delicious?"

Porter believes the answer is yes. It's his life's work.

The next time you see a javelin, ask yourself: "Could this fly further?"

Porter is proof that answer is also affirmative.

His pursuits go together like strawberries and... javelins.