Joseph Woiwode of Georgetown Prep has a very interesting background. He spent five years in Denmark prior to high school. There he began running track and broke several age group records. When he moved to Maryland and enrolled at Prep, he made a big splash by winning the IAC title in the 400-meter dash in 50.21 as a freshman. His career thus far has been up and down due to injury issues, but he has managed personal best times of 49.10 in the 400, 1:05.42 in the 500, and regularly split sub-2:00 in the 4x800 relay. In this interview, he tells mocorunning about his track experience, where he will run in college, and his lofty goals for this upcoming season.
MoCoRunning: I understand you were living overseas before you moved to Maryland and enrolled at Georgetown Prep. Where were you born and why were you living overseas? Why did you move to Maryland?
Woiwode: I was born in North Carolina but only lived there until I was three. I've also lived in Virginia and California before moving to Copenhagen, Denmark when I was ten. My father works for the FBI and was assigned to the embassy in Denmark for five years. We moved to Maryland when he transferred to the FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC.
MoCoRunning: You were pretty fast for your age group before you came here. What was it like running track overseas? What were some of your times and accomplishments early on?
Woiwode: It was a great experience running overseas. I had first started running track in sixth grade with my team at Copenhagen International School. After doing pretty well in our championship meet, I decided to join a Danish track club, Sparta, where I could compete more frequently. At Sparta I had a great coach, Lars Pedersen, who had been the Danish national record holder for the 100 & 200 meters. Because I was faster than the other kids my age, I was training with an older group of runners, ages 17-26. Some of my greatest accomplishments in Denmark were running the 400 in 52.70 seconds in an indoor meet in Sweden when I was in eighth grade; and running the 300 meters in 35.63 seconds and the 100 meters in 11.37 seconds outdoors the summer after eighth grade. During my years of running track in Denmark I broke a number of records for my age group. I really enjoyed running track in Denmark and especially liked participating in their annual week of spring training, which took place in locations like Portugal and Greece.
MoCoRunning: You surprised a lot of people when you won the 400 meter title at the IAC championships. Talk about the track season freshman year and what it was like winning that race.
Woiwode: The track season my freshman year did not go as well as I had hoped. I had a knee injury in the fall. In the winter I had played ice hockey, as I had been a hockey player since kindergarten and continued to play with a Danish team throughout my years in Denmark. I could run and play ice hockey in Denmark because my schedule allowed me to do both. But at Prep it wasn't possible to do both so I had continued to play hockey instead of running indoor track. Over spring break of my freshman year, I traveled to a Greek island to join in training with my old Danish track team. This allowed me to improve my condition before the beginning of the outdoor season. Going into the IAC Championship I was running well and expected to win the 400 meters. However, in the preliminaries I didn't have a good race and had developed large blisters on the bottoms of both feet. I felt sick and had lost some of my confidence. Allante' Keels, who at the time went to Landon, ran a very fast preliminary time so I knew he'd be my main competition. During the finals, I remember being one or two lanes inside Keels and throughout the first 200 meters focused on staying close to him. Going into the final straight I was about a step behind him. I just tried to keep my form and hoped to win the race. In the last 50 meters Keels seemed to tighten up, and I was able to pass him before the finish line. Winning felt great even though I was in pain from the blisters that had opened and peeled off the soles of both feet.
MoCoRunning: Do you think you will ever get back to playing hockey?
Woiwode: I don't think I'll ever get back to playing hockey competitively but maybe someday I'll play for fun.
MoCoRunning: Big things were expected from you to follow up your freshman year, but you basically disappeared from the track for the entirety of your sophomore year. What was going on during that time?
Woiwode: During my sophomore year, I decided to run cross-country in the fall to stay in shape. I also decided to focus on running indoor track instead of playing ice hockey. I probably shifted too quickly from distance running in cross country to sprinting in indoor track, and at a meet in December, I pulled a hamstring while running the 55 meters. I was probably a bit too eager to start running again and my hamstring was never able to heal properly. I kept tweaking it and then having to take time off to recover, a cycle I repeated throughout the entire track season. It was quite frustrating and I was never able to get into very good shape. I actually pulled my hamstring again last year but took a longer time off before trying to compete again and was able to return for the end of the outdoor season.
MoCoRunning: Indoor track last year was your return party. You ran 50.79 in the 400 in the Montgomery Invitational which was the fastest time by a Montgomery County athlete that day and 1:05.42 in the 500 at the Virginia Tech Invitational. Explain what it took to get back to that level of running. How did it feel running fast again?
Woiwode: It was great be able to run fast again after such a long time off. Right after cross-country ended last year, I was very focused on getting into shape for track season. During the time between the end of cross-country and the beginning of track, I spent time working out with the Good Counsel track team. I was willing to do whatever it took to get back to being faster. Maybe I ended up pushing myself too hard too fast and didn't allow myself enough rest because I re-injured myself and had to miss the end of the indoor season and the beginning of the outdoor season.
MoCoRunning: 10:19:05 is the fastest time in the Mocorunning database (indoors/outdoors) for the distance medley relay and it may remain that way for a long time. Describe your leg of that awesome DMR at the Yale Track Classic and describe what the atmosphere was like at that meet.
Woiwode: We had arrived at Yale early in spite of our bus running out of gas on the way. It was ridiculously cold there, something like five degrees. We had to run from the bus to the track to get indoors quickly. Fortunately, we had plenty of time to relax before our race. I felt we had a pretty good chance of doing well, because we had a strong DMR with Carl Dennis, Nick Letourneau and Ramsey Chapin. Before the race I was really nervous. A lot of other really good teams were there. Carl led off with the 1200. He ran a very good leg and split 3:12. Carl handed off to Nick in the middle of the pack. Nick ran a great 400 leg and passed a few runners. He split at about 50.9 and handed off to me in third place. For the first two laps I just tried to catch up to the first and second place teams. At the 400 mark I passed both to take the lead. I was able to keep the lead for the last lap and handed off to Ramsey in first place and had a split of 1:59. Ramsey kept the lead until the final lap when he was passed by Andrew Springer of Westerly High in Rhode Island. We finished in second by a small margin. The crowd was loud throughout the race and their enthusiasm probably helped us to run our best. Even though we didn't finish in first place, we were thrilled with the result. We ran as well as we could have and had the second fastest time in the nation at the time.
MoCoRunning: You have been the flex guy on the DMR sometimes running the 400 but often running the 800 meter leg. I believe you also ran the 4 x 800 and 4 x 400 all of last season and you run cross country. Do you now see yourself as a middle distance guy as oppose to a few years ago when you were purely a sprinter? What is your training this year going to be geared towards? Will we see you in the open 800?
Woiwode: I think I'm now more of a middle distance runner than I was a few years ago, but I still think of myself as a sprinter as well. I've had quite a history of injuries and as a result I've been increasing my distance in hopes of avoiding additional problems. If it weren't for injuries and trying to avoid them, I'd still be running shorter distances. My original plan for running cross-country was mainly to stay in good condition but I have discovered a lot more benefits come with it like building a strong base. This year I'll probably focus more on the 800, especially during the transition period between cross-country and indoor season. For the early part of the season I'll train more with the distance runners, but by the end of the outdoor season I'll probably be running more with the sprinters.
MoCoRunning: Which meets are you most looking forward to this year? Indoor? Outdoor? Which times are you looking to hit?
Woiwode: Indoors I'm most looking forward to the Yale track classic and the Indoor Nationals; outdoors, the Penn Relays and IAC Championships. My goal for this year is mainly to stay healthy with no injuries. In terms of times in the 400 I'd like to run under 48 seconds and in the 800 I hope to run 1:52. My primary goal is just to stay healthy and be able to participate and to contribute during the entire season.
MoCoRunning: Which indoor national championship are you planning to go to?
Woiwode: I am planning on going to the National Scholastic Indoor Championships at the New York Armory.
MoCoRunning: Where are you looking to run in college?
Woiwode: I will be running at Dartmouth College next year. I had narrowed my decision down to Cornell and Dartmouth and then went on official visits to both. I almost had decided on Cornell but at the last minute decided on Dartmouth. I'm very happy with my decision and really like the coach and team. I think I'll enjoy running for them next year.
MoCoRunning: If fans are going to cheer you on this year they will need to know how to pronounce your name. Can you sound out your last name for us and do you go by Joseph or Joe?
Woiwode: My last name is pronounced (Y'-wood- E) kind of like "why would he?" I used to go by "Joseph" but when I started going to Georgetown Prep everyone there called me "Joe". So now I pretty much go by "Joe".