Golabek Conquers Goliath
Walk-on turned All-American hopeful shatters records
Published: Thursday, March 3, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Remember Rob Golabek's name. He might become the first track and field Olympian to come out of UB.
Sadly, with all the attention on football and basketball, most students have probably never heard of him before. After hearing his story, he will be hard to forget.
It's nearly impossible not to notice him walking around campus, at 260 pounds.
The junior communication major is an unusual athlete. For starters, he's arguably the best track and field athlete Buffalo has ever had, but he doesn't run sprints or jump over hurdles. He throws the shot put, and is scary good at it.
Earlier this season, he broke the Mid-American Conference shot put record for longest throw. Last weekend, he won the MAC indoor championship.
In addition to being a record-breaking shot put thrower, Golabek is a momma's boy and a selfless teammate.
His mother, Sandy Trudeau, was Golabek's number one motivator when he struggled in high school.
"Often times, I told him to do what he enjoyed doing, and he really just enjoyed doing the shot put," Trudeau said. "When he did it, he did his best. I'd always tell him not to quit. Sometimes you get tired, but you have to continue doing it."
Trudeau knows what it's like to press on when life knocks you down. When Rob was a boy, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Golabek witnessed his mom's perseverance in the face of despair and decided he wanted to emulate her. The tattoo on Rob's right arm, which says "faith," is in honor of his mother.
Trudeau had to get another biopsy for breast cancer when Rob was a 17-year-old student at Frontier High School in Hamburg, N.Y.
"I was scared out of my mind," Golabek said. "She said ‘Robbie, all you got to do is have faith.' The biopsy was negative. I got the tattoo the next day. Every day I walk in [Alumni Arena], I truly have faith in what I do and I believe that I can do things that have never been done."
Golabek has already done things that have never been done before at UB, but he isn't planning on slowing down. He has infinite expectations.
"I'm never one to put limits on anything," Golabek said. "I have a lot of goals. I love checking them off every time I accomplish one. Obviously, the Olympics are a goal for anyone. But my short-term goal is to become the first UB All-American track and field athlete. My senior year goal is to take a shot at the national championship."
Despite being a high school All-American, Golabek had to walk-on to the Bulls. For financial reasons, he started his career at Southern Connecticut State University.
Although he liked the school, Golabek realized bigger things were achievable.
"It just wasn't what I needed athletically," Golabek said. "I'm a local kid. I grew up watching the Bulls play basketball and football games. I've watched the sports; I've known the athletes here; I grew up 25 minutes down the road. I have family all throughout Buffalo. I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York."
Golabek had to overcome a major size disadvantage. At under six feet tall, he competes against athletes who are generally at least six inches taller, but he more than makes up for it with his work ethic.
"What I lack in height, size and genetics, I make up for in hard work," Golabek said. "I'm in the weight room every day. I'm in the [shot put circle] every day. I'm not missing a lift or practice. I just work my ass off. I know that I don't have the natural height advantages that other people have, so I need to make up for it in hard work."
Golabek's high-school teammate Chris Buck, a thrower at Lehigh University, saw firsthand the obstacles that Golabek faced. Buck said that there were many schools that considered Golabek a high risk coming out of high school.
Golabek set his mind to making Buffalo's track and field team, and the rest is history.
He has already shown vast improvements from last year, but Golabek will be the first to tell you how much of it is due to his coaching and training staff. He is full of praise for every member, and he is insistent that he wouldn't be flourishing if it weren't for all the work they put into him.
One member of the coaching staff that knows Golabek well is throws coach Jim Garnham. Garnham has known Golabek for years, as he also coached the thrower while he was in high school.
Both men have the upmost respect for each other. Garnham, who has been coaching throwing for nearly forty years, recognizes the rarity of the work ethic and talent in Golabek.
"He hits [the gym] hard every day," Garnham said. "He's there at nine in the morning. He doesn't miss a beat. He's right up there with the best athletes I've coached, if not the best. He has the drive."
His strength may be intimidating, but Golabek is known by friends and family as a considerate and gentle giant.
"To the outside world, he's a jock," Trudeau said. "To me, he's my baby. He's kind. He's sweet. He's a hugging kind of son. That's the Rob I see."
His mother is not the only person that Golabek cares about. He sacrifices much of his time to ensure that his teammates can continue to compete. The track and field team only has six scholarships to split amongst 30 athletes, so he said he picks up odds-and-ends jobs as much as he can so the team can afford to spread out scholarships.
He may be a caring guy outside of competition, but, in the circle, Golabek is the ultimate competitor. He lives by the belief that records are meant to be broken.
"I hate to lose and I hate records," Golabek said. "When I walked into high school, I looked at the record board and said, ‘That's impressive, but I think I can beat it.' I never wanted some record to tell me how far I could throw. When I came to UB, I saw the record board and I had the same feeling. In both my first year and this season, I've broken both school records. I just set the MAC record and I still don't think that's enough. I don't see a limit just because it's never been done."
The records have already begun to fall, which makes the future look even better for Golabek.
"Can he be a national champion? Yes," Garnham said. "Can he be the greatest thrower I've ever coached? Yes. There is no doubt about it."