GREAT RUNNER: Matt Young runs in the Chili Pepper Festival in Northwest Arkansas recently.
It was a dream come true for Jenks senior cross country runner Matt Young.
Young overcame two years of adversity when he captured the Boys Class 6A cross country state championship on Oct. 29 in Edmond, running a time of 15:50.3.
Finishing behind him was Bartlesville’s Henry Williams (15:54.9) and fellow Trojan Alexander Jones (15:58.3).
“I just felt relieved that I’d done it,” Young said. “I was finished with the race and happy with how I placed. It was just a relief after a real hard season.”
As a freshman, Young missed out as an inexperienced runner on a deep team. He had to deal with a stress fracture as a sophomore; then last year, as a junior, he was edged out by two seconds.
“It was meaningful (to win state this year),” Young said. “To come so close last year, it was a little defeating. Of course, we won the team title last year, so that kind of helped ease the pain there. But, just to win it this year feels a little more complete.”
Young said the key to winning the race was putting a strategy in place to lead most of the race.
“I led from start to finish and just got some space between myself and the rest of the field,” he said.
What makes the victory more meaningful for Young is the fact that he overcame the stress fracture he had in his sophomore year.
“It was real frustrating,” he said.
Young ran his best race that year with a time of 15:39 at the Southlake Trail Meet, a tournament in Texas. Everything seemed to be going well until the next week of training.
“I had excruciating pain in my shin. I didn’t know what it was,” Young said.
Out of all the days he had to realize it, it came on his birthday, Sept. 16.“I had to go to the trainer, stop running, figure out what it was and we still didn’t know,” he said. “To realize you have an injury, your birthday is not the best day for that to happen.”
After taking a month off, Young went to a physical therapist, where an MRI was scheduled. That was when he learned he had a stress fracture.
“It was definitely really defeating,” Young said. “I just thought my running career was over, that everything I worked for was done.”
However, he got to running again the next spring in track.
“I came back and got PR’s (personal records) in the 3,200 (meter-run) and really kick-started my running again after that. It is just great after being defeated my sophomore year and be one of the best (cross country runners) in the state,” Young said.
That gave Young reason to believe his body could overcome the injury.
“I just needed to rest my body and just gradually get back into it and I knew I would have immediate results,” Young said. “I kept working out and was careful with my shins, making sure I had my proper footwear and stay healthy.”
While Young did win as an individual medalist, his team’s streak of state championships ended at four. Jenks took third with 111 points. Bartlesville won it with 55 and Owasso was runner-up with 93.
“We’re just used to having every single guy running under 17 minutes in the 5K and we’ve been blessed with that for the past four years,” Young said. “Our fifth, sixth and seventh were just not under 17 minutes this year. Going into the state race, we did not expect to win. We didn’t even expect to get even podium. We were ranked fourth going into the race and we got third. I was happy with how our team did compared to how we were ranked during the season, and we got the podium. I was real happy with that.
“It’s not what you would expect winning those four years in a row, but I was definitely happy with how our team did,” Young said.
Young plans to run in college and is deciding between Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Air Force and Army.