"I want to go wind-legal under 10.1. And for the 200m, I want to break 20.2." -- Matthew Boling
- - -
Early last week, Matthew Boling received a phone call from a number he didn't recognize.
Considering the previous few months, it had become second nature for the future University of Georgia athlete to ignore random requests for comment; he had learned that every request for his time wasn't always in his best interest. So the Houston Strake Jesuit graduate brushed it off and continued to watch an episode of Friends on Netflix.
But then a few minutes later, he received a text from the same number.
Matthew, it's Gatorade. We have something to tell you.
"I called back two seconds later," he said.
And it was then when Boling, 19, the athlete whose senior track and field season had been front and center for the world to see in 2019, was notified he had won Gatorade's National Boys Track and Field Player of the Year Award.
"I was pretty surprised," he said.
Boling's National Player of the Year win, the sixth for a sprinter in the last decade, followed a trend that's honored the country's best over that time. He became the first Texan since Abraham Hall in 2012 to be recognized as the top high school male athlete in track and field and the eighth athlete from the Lone Star State overall.
Few could have been imagined anyone else winning the award. The previous weeks had seen Boling accomplish a task no other high school athlete had ever done in the 100m -- set an all-time all conditions best of 9.98 seconds.
For good measure, he won another state title in the long jump, another in the 4x400 relay and added USATF U20 crowns in the 100m and 200m. He's currently tied for No. 2 in the world at 100 meters for the U20 category. He's been the most dominant and consistent short sprinter of 2019.
Early this week, Boling spent close to seven hours filming a video for Gatorade to be published on Thursday. It was all part of the process he had learned that, while difficult and time-consuming, would be memorable years from now.
"I'm used to doing an hour or two," said Boling, who turned 19 seven days ago. "(I just told myself) I just got to stick to it. I'm excited to get this award."
On Wednesday, he woke up and readied himself for another day. He drove to Strake Jesuit, where Gatorade continued to follow him, and then went to the competition area of the gym, where he was surrounded by teammates who were formed in a semi-circle.
"I walk in and they just started cheering," he said.
It was another touchpoint, maybe the last, of a season that had been tough to predict.
Boling's season has been a fever pitch since April, when the future University of Georgia athlete reeled off the second sub-10 second 100 meter performance in high school history. Before then, he had quietly put together an emergent season, one that saw him produce a wind-legal personal best of 10.22 seconds at the Texas Southern Relays and a memorable win at the Texas Relays as thousands watched on.
But then it happened. His 9.98 all conditions effort on April 27 at the Region 6A-3 Meet in Webster, Texas, on a 4.2 meters per second tailwind, officially marked the moment when Boling became more than a high school athlete in track and field.
The Houston Strake Jesuit senior became a viral sensation, a figure of prominence beyond the traditional circles that followed high school track and field. He became a national and global curiosity and fielded interviews from the BBC, to CNN, to the Dan Patrick Show. The then-18-year-old dealt with the pressure and spectacle incredibly.
But Boling still had much of his season left, and it was in his final two months of action where his true talent shined. At 100 meters, he found consistency, running four straight performances between 10.13 and 10.15. That included his first UIL Class 6A State Championship in the 100m, in a new National Federation of High Schools record of 10.13 seconds. The effort also tied for the fourth fastest time at the distance all-time.
He won races at the Great Southwest Classic in 10.15, and recently, at the USATF U20 National Championships, where he qualified for the Pan American U20 Championships in Costa Rica.
And yet, Boling wasn't a one-hit wonder, either.
During an unforgettable UIL Class 6A State Title Run, Boling also won a state title in the long jump, with a mark of 25 feet, 4.5 inches, and then single-handedly earned his program a title in the 4x400 relay, during an anchor leg that saw him make up a 30 meter deficit and land a 44.7 second split.
Over the course of the season, Boling was incredible in the long jump, where he logged seven marks over 25 feet, including a best of 26-3.5 at the Texas Relays.
He sacrificed his own personal interests in the 200m to perform for Strake Jesuit in the relays between the April and May period, before finally coming back to the event in June at USATF U20s, where he put down a US No. 1 mark of 20.30.
The offspring of a season with such mainstream appeal is often recognition from those you wouldn't expect. Over the last few weeks, Boling had chatted with NCAA 110mH champ Grant Holloway, had spoken briefly with NFL football player Adrian Peterson, and had been wished happy birthday by professional sprinter Noah Lyles.
But never did he imagine that celebrities like YouTube stars Danny Duncan and Logan Paul would take an interest in him, too. Both reached out to Boling over the last few weeks to offer congratulations on his season.
Looking further, Boling still has a few more races in 2019. And his goals remain as high as ever.
"I want to go wind-legal under 10.1," he said of the 100m. "And for the 200m, I want to break 20.2, that would be cool."
He predicts his time in Georgia will be different than what he expected when he first signed last year over the signing period.
"It's really weird, because I've always viewed myself as a 400 guy for so long," he said. "But I really think the 200m could potentially be my best event. To run a fast 200m, I think my 100m will get faster."
Gatorade National AOY Winners Since 2000:
- 2018: Anthony Schwartz
- 2017: Mondo Duplantis
- 2016: Michael Norman
- 2015: Michael Norman
- 2014: Trentavis Friday
- 2013: Trayvon Bromell
- 2012: Abraham Hall
- 2011: Gunnar Nixon
- 2010: Sam Crouser
- 2009: Curtis Beach
- 2008: German Fernandez
- 2007: Bryshon Nellum
- 2006: David Klech
- 2005: Ryan Whiting
- 2004: Jason Richardson
- 2003: Kerron Clement
- 2002: Brendan Christian
- 2001: Alan Webb
- 2000: Donald Sage Jr.