Corey flexing at Disney Marathon

MU’s Corey Matzat, right, and his dad, Eric Matzat, pose with their medals after running the Walt Disney World Half-Maraton in January.

Mizzou student Corey Matzat hit the ground running when 2013 started. He joined his family in Florida to complete the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, which began at Epcot Center, traveled through the Magic Kingdom and concluded back at Epcot in the shadow of Spaceship Earth, where each recipient received a medal. It was Matzat’s first half-marathon and the second-most-impressive medal he’d earn in 2013.

The more significant award came in June, when U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan awarded Matzat a Presidential Scholars medal.

The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has honored more than 6,000 of the nation’s top-performing high school seniors since it was created in 1964. Last year Matzat was one of more than 3,300 high school seniors invited to apply for the award. He completed an extensive application, wrote essays and submitted grades and test scores. Then, he waited.

I was nervously and hopefully waiting for a while,” he says. The call finally came just a week before graduation. He was one of 141 students in the United States selected for the recognition.

For a week in June, this year’s class of Presidential Scholars convened in Washington, D.C., where they toured several monuments in the nation’s capital and heard from various speakers, many of whom were previous Presidential Scholars. The medallion ceremony concluded the week.

It was just an incredible experience,” says Matzat, who also met with Missouri Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt and received a guided tour of the U.S. Capitol.

Abundance of accolades

Corey Matzat with Arne Duncan

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, left, awards new Mizzou student Corey Matzat a medal during the June 2013 Presidential Scholars ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Matzat, who scored a perfect 36 on the ACT, added the Presidential Scholars award to a multitude of honors. He was the valedictorian for Branson High School and the top male graduate in the state of Missouri.

Matzat is no stranger to Mizzou. He attended the Missouri Scholars Academy in 2011 and last year was part of the Branson High Scholar Bowl team that advanced to the state competition, which was held on the MU campus.

Our team was actually pretty good,” Matzat says. “It was the first time in our school’s history that we advanced to state. We weren’t able to make it into the finals, but the experience was really rewarding.”

Mizzou engineering

Matzat’s visits to the University of Missouri made his choice for college easy.

By the end of the Missouri Scholars Academy,” Matzat says, “I was pretty well determined to come to Mizzou.”

The career field that Corey Matzat would pursue seemed obvious to those who knew him as a kid.

One of my favorite toys when I was growing up was Legos,” Matzat says. “I always liked building things out of Legos, and so everyone always told me that I should be an engineer.”

Add that to the fact that his parents introduced him to computers as soon as he was able to handle a keyboard and mouse, and computer engineering seems like a perfect major for the first-year MU student from Nixa, Mo.

Making the adjustments to college has been smooth, and Matzat already is involved with Fellowship of Christian Engineers and the Association of Computer Machinery, where he has joined a sub group that focuses on IOS development.

It’s been an interesting transition,” he says. “I’m just making sure I am managing everything well and staying organized. It’s basically just been a process of getting used to a new routine and a new place.”

Flying saucers

Despite his busy schedule this fall, Matzat has managed to find his way to Albert Oakland Park in Columbia for a few rounds of disc golf. Over the summer, Matzat was introduced to the sport; it’s similar to golf, but instead of trying to hit a ball into a hole, players toss flying discs into baskets.

I played at least every other night this past summer,” he says. “I haven’t been able to play as much since I’ve been here, but I plan to find more opportunities to get out and play.”

Disc golf is just one of the activities on Matzat’s list of hobbies. He and his parents, Eric and Cynthia Matzat, always have had an affinity for the outdoors — camping at Big Springs near Van Buren, Mo., and hiking the Pedestal Rocks Loop Trail in northwest Arkansas.

The Disney marathon was a new adventure for the family.

There were so many people there.” Matzat says. “We really were able to draw energy from the crowd. It was a lot more fun than I expected.”

Now part of the Mizzou family, Matzat suspects that the fun has just begun.