Emphasizing the student in student-athlete is something sophomore Matteo Sogne of the University of Utah swim and dive team tries to do as he’s always finding new ways to challenge himself outside of his sport. Hailing from Modena, Italy, Sogne decided in order to prepare himself to come to the United States and join the team as a Ute, he would teach himself English. He started learning throughout high school, but he didnít truly invest in the language until right before he left home.
“With English it was kind of hard. … I couldn’t really talk a lot the first couple weeks,” Sogne said. “I mainly taught myself watching the NBA. I love watching basketball and I was just recording all the games. When I had free time, I was just watching NBA in English or watching Netflix in English.”
His passion to progress forward carried overseas with him to his new home in Utah. Sogne’s favorite event is open water swimming, and he has earned several performance recognitions from that event, but such distances are not offered under the NCAA. That didnít stop him from adapting to his current collegiate events, the mile and the 1,000 yards. Sogne said his experiences have been enjoyable thus far even with the transition he has had to make, especially because he has a team to train with ó a luxury he hasnít always had.
“The last two years and a half, I was practicing by myself,” Sogne said. “After a while, it gets pretty hard mentally, so I was kind of burned out. But then I came here with this beautiful group, and I’m just so thankful to be here.”
His self-motivation and love for his teammates continues to push him every day to become the best student-athlete he can be. Swimming and diving coach Joe Dykstra said that Sogne’s work a is what stands out to him the most.
“Swimming is not the easiest sport by any means,” Dykstra said. “It sometimes can be pretty arduous to go through the training, especially as a distance swimmer, but he really enjoys the process of putting in what is necessary.”
Sogne has that same work ethic in the classroom as he does in the water. When he was a kid, he fell in love with mathematics and developed a competitive drive for it. In high school, Sogne finished in the top 10 at multiple math competitions, and he took extra classes to further his interests and skills. When he started at Utah, one of his professors introduced him to the Undergraduate Problem Solving Competition. Once a month, the Department of Mathematics posts a problem on their website and points are given out to the students who can answer them correctly. Sogne became involved and watched his hard work pay off.
“Last year I won, so I’m super happy because of that,” Sogne said. “Then I got the opportunity to go to Chicago for MathFest. I stayed for four days in Chicago and there were people from all over the country.”
Sogne represented the university in the U.S. National Collegiate Mathematics Championship as a freshman last year where he finished as one of the top contenders. His goal for this year is to return to the competition, which would make him the first in the school district to do so.
In addition to swimming at the Division I level while putting in work in the classroom, Sogne has also been conducting research on campus with mathematician and bioengineer, Dr. Ken Golden.
“I’m doing research on sea ice,” Sogne said. “My focus is called semi-periodics system and itís a particular field of math that can be applicated on the sea ice. I’m just in the pure math behind that as a problem solver and then we apply this stuff with other groups of people, like biologists and physicians.”
Golden, Sogne and their group of researchers create climate models to make predictions about polar ice trends and formulate ideas to avoid future problems. Rather than feeling overwhelmed with his wide range of responsibilities and activities he does on top of being a collegiate swimmer, he feels that everything he is doing is “super motivating and a good challenge.”
It takes discipline, time management and commitment to not only overcome challenges, but also to enjoy them at the same time. While Dykstra expects to see Sogne competing in one of the top 10 spots at the Pac-12 Championships and potentially qualify for the NCAA Championships, Sogne is focused on continuing to exemplify what it means to be a student-athlete.