Second-year jumper designs bridges

Nicholas Kamlet, Staff Reporter

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Luke Traverso is a second-year jumper on the Case Western Reserve University track team. Last indoor season, he topped his pole vault at 4.01 meters, and he is looking forward to building on that this year. In the classroom, he is working toward a degree in civil engineering. He puts what he is learning to use by serving as the vice president of fabrication for the Steel Bridge Design Team.

What is your favorite part of being on the track team? Why?

My favorite part of being on the track team is that everyone pushes each other to be the best they can be on and off the track. I have made lifelong friends and have had some truly amazing training partners that have held me accountable. The feeling of competing is a feeling like no other and has been significantly enhanced by the people I have been able to do it with.

Where did you get your passion for pole vault/jumping? Any good stories?

I started out as a distance runner in seventh and eighth grade and saw high schoolers pole vaulting in the spring. I then asked myself, “Why am I running in circles when I could be doing that?” I was extremely awful at first but was intrigued by the complexity and physicality of the sport, which led me to a pole vaulting club. My coach Branko Miric taught me how to pole vault, diet, lift and find my passion. I enjoy all the challenges of fitness, and I believe pole vault brings them together.

Do you have any meets that you remember being particularly special? Why?

At DIII All-Ohio Indoor Championships this February, I qualified for the meet as sixteenth out of sixteen competitors. I cleared 4.01m on my first attempt, setting a new lifetime best and placing seventh to score two points for the team. I had been stuck at 3.81m for two years and had several minor injuries last year that prevented me from competing. I was starting to question why I was putting so much effort into something for no improvement and not even being able to contribute to the team. When I cleared that bar, I felt the two-year weight being lifted off my chest and contributed to the team in a meaningful way for the first time.

Aside from track, what else are you involved in on campus? Clubs, student organizations, Greek life? Can you explain what you do in them?

I am the vice president of fabrication for the Steel Bridge Design Team in which I lead the construction of a 22 foot bridge that we assemble and test at the annual [American Institute of Steel Construction] AISC Student Steel Bridge Competition. My responsibilities include teaching members how to weld and planning in detail how to make our design a reality. We are currently fabricating the bridge and are extremely excited to compete at the University of Michigan this April. I am also a representative of Men’s Track and Field in the Case Association of Student Athletes (CASA), and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

What are you majoring in? What interests you about it?

I decided to major in structural civil engineering as I love the idea of designing something for people, and then being able to see its impact in person. Infrastructure is used to connect people and communities, and having a degree will allow me to work with a firm to create the best solutions to the problems at hand.

What do you hope to accomplish with the degree?

I am considering pursuing a master’s degree, and then will work towards my Professional Engineer License that will enable me to sign off and submit designs to public authorities. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is a professional organization that gives a grade to the nation’s infrastructure every four years. In 2017, the United States received a D+ rating mostly due to structural deficiencies, structures that are at the end of their lifespan, and the fact that underperforming infrastructure costs the average American family $3,400 dollars a year. Engineering is problem solving, and this a very large problem that I want to help solve in whatever way possible. Getting a technical degree is the first step, and I am looking forward to all of the opportunities it will provide.

What are your favorite free time activities? Why?

Most of my free time during the day is spent in the [Charles William Bingham Mechanical Engineering Building] structures lab working on the bridge itself or practicing my welding. I enjoy playing board games, hiking and going out to eat with friends.

What is your favorite quote or what inspires you?

“Hard work doesn’t guarantee anything, but without it you don’t stand a chance”—Pat Riley.

This quote always reminds me that I should never feel entitled to anything in my life because I ‘worked hard for it.’ It also reminds me that if I don’t give everything I have to everything I do, then I should not expect improvement.