Most people have heard of marathons and triathlons, and many Honors alumni have completed one (or both) of these events. But, as far as we know, only one has competed in Modern Pentathlon. That alumnus is Matthew Wyble (BA 2008, Economics). Modern Pentathlon is an Olympic sport that combines running, swimming, fencing, shooting and horse riding. As a student, Wyble was a member of MRun and trained on and off with the varsity track team. He participated in many sports in high school and has done ultra-marathons and other endurance events, including a Run Across the USA. “In 2005, my friend Brandon Newlin and I ran from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, a distance of 3,330 miles. We started in Atlantic City, New Jersey and finished on the Oregon coast. We ran unsupported, pushing all of our gear in a jogging stroller and camping at night on strangers’ lawns. We raised money for an organization called Water for Children Africa, a charity that worked to develop safe drinking water sources,” explained Wyble. But after graduating from UM, he was looking for a new challenge. “I’ve done a lot of different stuff. So, I thought, ‘What’s a new challenge to take on?” He decided on Modern Pentathlon.
Wyble found coaches in a former Olympians Tsanko Hantov and Iliya Mechkov in Chicago and began training, including attending national camps. “I got better. And I got invited to train at the Olympic Training Center, starting in summer 2010,” explained Wyble. “I did this full-time, 40-50 hours of training per week, for a year and a half! Yes, I met Michael Phelps, and many marquee athletes in all the sports that the Colorado Training Center serves.” Wyble was on the US national team and went to the Modern Pentathlon World Cup. “It was going well, but I also knew I wanted to go back to school. I had already deferred admission to Harvard Business School. So, in Fall 2011, I enrolled.” Wyble attended courses while maintaining his rigorous training schedule, and in the spring of 2012, he attended the Olympic Trials. He placed 7th in the US, but needed to be one of the top two to make the Olympic Team. “It was very humbling to learn these new skills. To just pick up horse riding and, your first time, you’re worse than a five year old!” After his experience training for the Olympic Team, Wyble decided to refocus on his education. His typical approach of seeking new challenges isn’t restricted to his athletic pursuits.
“In Fall 2012, I added the JD -- I had also been deferring that. This joint program is small, with only about 5-10 students admitted per year.” He teaches in the Economics Department (Intro Micro & Macro) at Harvard while pursuing his MBA and JD degrees. His experience with the HONORS 135 courses has undoubtedly helped him in this role. “I took [an HONORS 135 course] as a freshman, which made me aware of it and what a cool program it is. I just wanted to explore teaching more. I was an H135 instructor when I was a senior. It showed me how much fun it could be to teach college students,” Wyble said.
In the summers of 2013 and 2014, Wyble worked on business strategy for Blizzard Entertainment, makers of well-known video games World of Warcraft and Starcraft. “Business and legal training? Oh, let’s go work in video games!” Wyble joked. More seriously, he explained, “I will definitely be going into video games. I like working on things that require thinking about things in many different ways. I’m a nerd at heart. There’s the business context, the technical, engineering and art aspects. The design piece. It’s fun to be able to think through all of the different facets. And, it’s a lot of fun to play video games all day! It’s market research -- what can I say?” Just as he enjoys working through all of the problems on business strategy for a large video game company is similar to the enjoyment he felt in the Honors Program
“I came from a small high school, never once having to do homework. To be immersed in a tight-knit community that was really motivated made a huge difference to me. Seeing people doing impressive things made me want to take advantage of the opportunities, too. In Honors classes especially, the depth of understanding, the sophistication to think about things deeply was really, really awesome. I felt like I went to an Ivy League school in the Honors Program. The talented, motivated, passionate people around me made me want to do those types of things, too,” reflected Wyble. “The Honors Thesis, especially [working with] Professor Frank Stafford, was really great. It gave me a chance to work on a large project. Instead of having a prompt, it’s wide open. Having to come up with my own question was very fun and very hard. It’s one thing to answer others’ questions with smart answers. It’s another thing to come up with the good questions yourself and to work on the answer. These are some valuable skills you get from the Honors Thesis.”