2-time NCAA champion and former Duck Mac Fleet (left) with Maton after his record-breaking 1500m on April 17th.
When Matthew Maton stepped to the line at the Oregon Relays on April 17th, he was just hoping for a PR. The high school senior from Bend, Oregon had traveled the two and a half hours to Eugene to compete in the 1500m, and had few expectations for himself in a race against experienced collegians and pros. "I was coming off of a pretty hard week so I was only hoping for a small PR, to run like 3:48 or so," Maton said.
Although Maton had split 3:47 at the 2014 adidas Dream Mile en route, a race that he finished runner-up in 4:03.23, his official best in the event was a 3:49.38. At Hayward Field three weeks ago, Maton figured to be significantly over-matched, with two-time NCAA champion and 3:38 runner Mac Fleet in the race, as well as several of Maton's future Oregon teammates.
The gun went off and immediately Maton was off the back as former Duck A.J. Acosta brought the field through 400m in 58 seconds. As another lap passed with Acosta pacing the 800 in 1:59, the lone high schooler was second-to-last, but still within striking distance as he passed the split just shy of 2:01.
Maton was in eighth with 300m to go, but the senior had conserved a lot of energy throughout the race by staying patient. As Mac Fleet started to kick up front, so too did the young Maton, who was suddenly fourth coming down the final 100m. Fleet would pull away to an easy victory in 3:40.52, but it was the hard-charging Bend, Oregon product that had made up the most ground in the final lap, finishing fourth with just Fleet, plus Oregon freshmen Blake Haney and Niki Franzmair ahead of him.
His time was 3:42.54, the third-fastest 1500m in U.S. high school history, and an Oregon state record. For the second time in a year, Maton had smashed a record previously held by Galen Rupp. "I was very excited," said Maton, who had broken Rupp's cross country state meet record by 10 seconds in the fall, running 14:45.
Maton smashing Galen Rupp's Oregon state cross country record last fall.
Maton's 1500m converts to around 4:00 in the full mile, a distance that he'll run tonight at the Oregon Twilight at Hayward Field. If the senior runs sub-4, he would be just the sixth prep in history to break that barrier.
The story of Maton's senior track season is an interesting one, not lacking controversy. Anyone that watched him run in the 1500m at Oregon would have noticed that Maton was not wearing his high school's jersey, instead a Nike Elite kit. His name was listed as "unattached" in the results.
According to OregonLive.com, the reason that Maton was not representing his school on April 17th was because he had been kicked off the Summit High track team earlier in the spring after a falling out with the coaching staff. According to the article, Maton had a disagreement just before spring break with a coach regarding a missed warmup, and when Maton refused to sign a contract that would have reinstated him on the team, the two sides decided to split.
With just a few months until heading off to Eugene for his freshman year at Oregon, Maton was without a coach or a structured season to build up to the Dream Mile and Brooks PR meet later in the summer.
Maton was unfazed, however, and now he credits his departure from his high school team as helping him race even faster than before. "Training has never been better since I left the team," Maton said, noting that his mileage has decreased from 80-90 miles per week to 60-70, which has him "feeling great." Maton was running three workouts (hard efforts) per week at Summit, and now he does just two.
After finishing third in 2013, Maton was a disappointing 19th this past fall at Foot Locker.
"I feel like part of the reason I wasn't able to compete well at Foot Locker (was) because I was over-trained," he said, referring to his disappointing 19th place finish in San Diego this past December, a race where he finished third in 2013. Clearly, the roots of Maton's displeasure with his experience at Summit run deeper than just the one isolated incident.
But the change has Maton optimistic, and he notes that former Oregon All-American and current Saucony pro Parker Stinson is acting as his coach in the interim. "(He) helps me a lot with workouts," Maton said.
With another deep field set to run tonight in the mile at Hayward, Maton is approaching this race much in the same way that he did the 1500 three weeks ago- with guarded optimism. Even so, Maton knows that a high schooler breaking four minutes is rare, and doing so would put him among the likes of Jim Ryun, Alan Webb, and Lukas Verzibicas. "It would be very special to be able to become the sixth guy, almost like a dream come true. I'm not trying to put any pressure to do it though. Im going to just try and get a PR and maybe that would be under four," Maton said.
Among others, Maton will face off against current Oregon Ducks and All-Americans Eric Jenkins, Will Geoghegan, and Daniel Winn, each with sub-4 PRs. Regardless of their plan, however, Maton will stick to the approach that worked so well last time. "I'll probably try to hang back at 60-second pace again and stay relaxed and focus on closing hard," he said.
Even as Maton readies himself for a go at history tonight, bigger races await later in the summer, namely a rematch with 2014 adidas Dream Mile champion Grant Fisher, who just ran 3:42.89 himself last weekend at Payton Jordan. Maton and Fisher are now the third and fourth fastest preps ever in the 1500m, respectively, which has Maton pumped to square off against his friend later in the year. "It's gonna be a great time running against him late season, and I'm looking forward to a really competitive race," Maton said.
Maton finished runner-up to Grant Fisher at the adidas Dream Mile last year.
First things first, Maton's race against the clock looms later tonight. With the chance to join such elite company, Maton is surprisingly calm as he tries to become the first high schooler since 2011 to break four. Perhaps it's the confidence he gained by running so well in that 1500m, or maybe it's his changed regimen now that he's not competing for Summit. Maybe it's both.
Whatever the reason for Maton's demeanor, he's just excited to get back on the track at Hayward Field. History says that it's unlikely Maton joins the sub-four club tonight, but the future Duck is ready give it his best shot in front of his soon-to-be home crowd.
"I had a lot left in the tank after that 1500m, so I'm hoping to use everything I've got in this race," he said.
The men's mile at the Oregon Twilight is scheduled to go off tonight at 6:47pm PT. The meet will air LIVE on Pac-12 Network HERE.