Jacob Matson mixes it with sprinting royalty
Rubbing shoulders with some of the world's best athletes is further motivation for Roncalli College sprinter Jacob Matson to succeed.
The 17-year-old was part of a private New Zealand Academy of Running team of 16 which spent three weeks in California, impressing on the USA College track and field circuit.
Matson was not overawed by the stiff competition, running his two fastest 200m, a wind-assisted 21.54sec and then a legal 21.59sec.
"It was a great experience, it could not have been better," he said.
The meetings were a hotbed of sprinting, featuring several Olympians from the United States and Carribean countries and the United States' best young talent.
Off the track, Matson's highlight was meeting Ashton Eaton, the Olympic decathlon gold medallist and world record holder.
It was also special rubbing shoulders with some of the world's best in the call room before the start of his events.
"Being in their presence was inspiring. It was hard to believe you could get that moment." The teenager said he was pleased with his own performances.
"I was really happy to run the two fastest 200m I've ever done."
He also said he had learned a lot having competed so many times in a short time period against top class opponents.
Matson's efforts will also keep alive his chances of competing in the IAAF World Junior Championships later this year.
While he has not cracked the qualifying standard yet, his continual improvement would have grabbed the selectors' attention.
Coach Don Garland, who travelled to the United States, was impressed with Matson's attitude and efforts.
"He really stood up in that top level competition, which isn't always easy."
Garland said there were some big and knowledgeable crowds supporting the events.
"I think one meet had close to 60,000, which is an experience it itself and having to deal with the pressure."
Matson was also one of the few white sprinters competing, he said.
"The USA is certainly a hot bed of sprinting.
"Jacob was in the call room, only centimetres away from Olympic medallists, including Ryan Martin, which was a fantastic opportunity and experience to soak up."
Garland said he would discuss with Matson his options for a final crack at the world junior qualification time and that could include a quick trip to Queensland.
Matson's best efforts were at the West Coast Relays Invitational at Stanford, San Francisco, where he finished second in the 200m and third in the 100m with a wind-assisted 10.81sec..
Last Friday at the Brian Clay Invitational at Cougar Stadium, Los Angeles, Matson lined up in the seeded open 200m and won his heat.
From the 10 heats, encompassing 79 entries, Matson was awarded the bronze medal behind winner Shaun Murray (Southern Utah University) who stopped the clock at 21.31sec.
There were 13 heats in the women's 200 metres, including world championship heptathlon silver medallist Lauren Eaton, wife of Olympic champion Bryan Eaton.
Garland said the trip was organised by Nelson-based, four times United States Olympic triallist Greg Laufenslager.
"With his contacts he managed to open doors for the team that would not have been otherwise available."
- The Timaru Herald