For Terrell resident Matthew Rich, track and field events have always come naturally. Rich has been running since he was in the seventh grade and “knew that is what I really wanted to do and started to enjoy it” as he entered his freshman year of high school.
Last week, the 17-year-old decathlate reached the pinnacle of his young, promising track career when he qualified for the United States Track and Field Junior Olympics next week in Sacramento, Calif.
To qualify for the Junior Olympics, Rich had to place in the top six of the association meet in DeSoto. From there, he advanced to the regional meet in Abilene where he placed second to earn a trip to California.
It was a feat his mother, Erica Rumbo, was expecting even if Rich may not have been so optimistic himself.
“Whenever he called me, I just knew he was calling to tell me he had made it,” Rumbo said. “I just had this feeling all day he was going to call me and tell me he had made it.”
The decathlon is a survival of the fittest competition of versatility consisting of 10 events spread over two days including the 100-meter dash, long jump, high jump, 400-meter dash, 110-meter hurdles, discus throw, pole vault, javelin and 1,500-meter run.
What is even more remarkable is that Rich had not even attempted the shot put, discus or javelin toss until last year.
“A couple of my friends that I run with at school suggested that I try it and thought I would be good at it,” Rich said.
It was a move Rumbo thought was a natural progression for Rich in track and field.
“He was good at everything he did in track, so his friends just suggested he do it,” Rumbo said.
He started training for the Decathlon last spring but an arm injury during a spring football game derailed his training last summer. This summer, he opted not to play football and instead concentrated on decathlon training.
The move has paid off because his track performances have been so impressive lately that the Air Force Academy, in Colorado Springs, Colo., is recruiting him.
Just like budgeting time would be important at the Air Force Academy, Rich has to budget practice time for the ten events and does so by practicing two events per day during the five day practice week, so he can get the ten events over the duration.
During the meets, he makes sure to stay rested, so he can have enough energy to finish the events.
“I make sure to stay hydrated and stay in the shade between events, so the heat does not zap my energy,” Rich said.
He also said a good diet, including fruits and vegetables with a lot of water help his body recover and hydrate properly. Practicing in the extreme heat helps Rich. He said his body can recover quicker.
Rich could get a reprieve in Sacramento as temperatures may not rival the sweltering summers of North Texas.
“It is going to help me out a lot because here with it being so hot, it zaps your energy, so hopefully I can perform better if the weather is better,” Rich said.
He said while training in the heat could give him an advantage over fellow competitors, he is not leaning on that as he heads to California.
Rich said his best events are the long jump and 400-meter dash. The event that takes the most practice is the javelin throw.
Competing on a larger stage is not deterring the only athlete from Royse City High School to advance to the regional track meet in 2010.
He is relishing the opportunity to compete against the best and listens to his coach and finishes the events.
“I am kind of nervous but I have been looking over all of the people who have made it there and if it is the right day and I am focused, I can place in the top two there,” Rich said.
Now, the straight A student will turn his efforts to working on the things he needs to improve upon in the four practices remaining between now and Monday.
But now, Rich needs your help in order to go to Sacramento. To help offset some of the expenses, Rich and his family will gladly accept donations of any kind at any time. People can make a donation in Rich’s name at American National Bank 972-524-3411.