Junior Matt Duvall has led the state ranked Pickerington North XC team all season long. Last year, he finished 23rd at the state cross country meet and 7th in the 3200m at the state track meet. This year, as the XC post-season continues to heat up, he has even bigger goals. We caught up with the Pickerington superstar on the eve of the regional meet to see how his season has gone, what he's shooting for next, and what it's like to run for the always-competitive Pickerington North squad.
It's post-season time, and Pickerington North is off to a solid start. What was it like to win a district title both individually and as a team?
Matt Duvall: Winning districts as an individual was an amazing feeling. After all the hard work you put in it feels great when it pays off. Coming in first place as a team felt even better. When you run with those guys almost every day and train together it’s an overwhelming feeling when you win. Especially coming back from OCC where we didn’t perform as well as we wanted to. So overall, both wins were great and without my coaches and teammates it wouldn’t have happened.
Going back, when did you first start running? What got you started in cross country?
MD: I used to play soccer when I was younger and always loved running around the field. As I got older I was told about cross country where you run everyday and compete. I started out running in the 7th grade and immediately fell in love with the sport and have been doing it ever since.
Leading up to this year, what had been your biggest highlight as a runner? What's been the biggest highlight of this season?
MD: Leading up to this year, I think my biggest accomplishment as a runner was placing 7th in the 2 mile event at the state track meet my sophomore year. The biggest highlights this season would be winning districts as a team and individually.
Central Ohio XC is on fire this year, and you guys raced in a loaded OCC. What's it like racing against some of Ohio's best week-after-week? How do you think that prepares you for post-season racing and the state meet?
MD: Racing the top guys every week is incredibly beneficial as a runner. Being able to compete against each other every race only makes each person faster and stronger in representing Ohio cross country. It helps so much for post-season because you already have the experience of running against other fast competitors under your belt and you know who your greatest competition is.
You've been to state before and have raced at the highest levels here in Ohio. What does it take to reach those types of goals? Can you tell us a little about your training?
MD: Reaching your goal of competing at the highest level involves many things. Running at that level you must train hard, commit to the sport, and believe in yourself and the training you have put in. Also, the little things play a huge factor in your success such as proper nutrition, taking care of your body, and getting a good amount of sleep. (I have never watched an entire high school football game).
My coaches have developed a great training program for me. After a meet on Saturday, we will have a long run Sunday to get the legs moving again. During the week we will have workout days on Tuesday and Thursday and lighter runs on Monday and Wednesday. Then on Friday we will have a recovery day before the meet.
Do you have any big goals to wrap up this year that you'd like to share? Will you be doing any racing after the state meet as well?
MD: I would love to win regionals and have our team qualify for the state meet. Also, I want to place as high as possible at the state meet against Ohio’s best cross country runners. After the state meet, some of my teammates and I plan to compete at New Balance Regional Nationals.
What makes the Pickerington North XC team so special? What's it like to be part of that team and tradition?
MD: What makes Pickerington North XC so special is the friendship and connection we all have with each other. The team is always upbeat and encouraging towards one another, no matter the outcome. Being together for so long, you start to understand your teammates and recognize when they don’t feel good or if they are upset about the race outcome and can help by giving them positive encouragement. I know I will have these special memories for the rest of my life.
Good luck to Matt, Pickerington North XC, and everyone racing at the regional meet this weekend!