Matthews is set to carry on climbing

GREG LAUTENSLAGER
Last updated 13:00 05/06/2014
Julian Matthews
MARION VAN DIJK/ Fairfax NZ
IN THE RUNNING: Julian Matthews won't just be making up the numbers - he'll be aiming for a podium finish at the Commonwealth Games, his father says.

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Word of his selection to the New Zealand team for the 2014 Commonwealth Games will soon reach Julian Matthews at his training base in the French Pryenees, and it likely will be followed by another run up the mountain.

"Knowing Julian, he won't just go to Scotland to take part," said Phil Matthews, Julian's father. "He will want to be on that medal stand. He is very focused."

The New Zealand Olympic Committee announced its final roster for Glasgow yesterday. Athletics added Matthews for the men's 1500m, Nikki Hamblin for the women's 1500m, Lucy Van Dalen for the women's 5000m, and the women's 4 x 400m relay. New Zealand has 23 selected for its athletics team. Nick Willis, the 2008 Olympic silver medallist, also will represent New Zealand in the 1500m.

Matthews will train this month in the Pyrenees and then run a couple of tuneup races to prepare for Glasgow. The Commonwealth Games will be held from July 23 until August 3. Matthews will compete in the men's 1500m preliminary round on August 1, and the final is slated for August 2.

Matthews ran 3min 38.59sec for the 1500m in Heusden, Belgium, on July 13 to meet the Commonwealth Games B qualifying standard of 3min 38.80sec and was required to run a second B standard. He returned to Nelson in December and spent a month training at altitude at the Snow Farm near Wanaka before returning to Nelson to train at the Saxton Field Athletics Track and on the local trails.

He finished second to Hamish Carson in the 1500m at the New Zealand track and field championships in Wellington on March 30 and then went to California for a series of races.

He ran 3min 40.33sec at the Mount Sac Relays on April 18 and 3min 39.95sec at the Stanford Invitational on May 4. He finished third in the USATF High Performance Meet in Los Angeles in 3min 38.20sec to hit the required standard and waited for the NZOC to announce its final selection.

Matthews' achievement did not surprise his first coach Tim Cross, a teacher at St. Joseph's School.

"In Year 8, he won the interschool cross-country meet by more than a minute," Cross said.

"Right then, I knew that boy was going places."

Matthews went to Nelson College, played basketball and joined a group of Athletics Nelson distance runners that would later evolve into the National Academy of Distance Running.

His training mates included Dominic Channon and Dallas Bowden, who teamed up to win the senior boys New Zealand secondary schools cross country championships in Tauranga. Matthews won the 1500m at the 2006 New Zealand secondary schools athletics Championships in Christchurch and silver medals in the M20 division at the 2006 and 2007 New Zealand track and field championships and a bronze in 2008.

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He went to Auburn University in Alabama for one year on a full athletics scholarship and then transferred to Providence College in Rhode Island. He ran under four minutes in the mile indoors four times and made the finals for the 1500m at the NCAA Championships, before graduating from Providence.

The road to Glasgow has not been easy for the 25-year-old runner, but certainly the journey has been worth it.

"It's a huge lift for him; he's worked so hard," Phil Matthews said. "And this is just the beginning.

"He will come back from the Commonwealth Games a new man from what he will experience."

- The Nelson Mail

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