As Purdue’s No. 1 harrier prepares for his second NCAA Cross Country Championship race tomorrow, he’s aiming to become the program’s first All-American in over 25 years.
Sophomore Matt McClintock will need to finish in the top 40 on Saturday to be Purdue’s first All-American since Robert Stolz accomplished the feat in 1987.
“I’m excited moving into NCAAs,” McClintock said. “It’s going to be a grinding pace from the start as opposed to having to sit in a pack and wait to move late.”
If his results thus far this season are any indicator, McClintock seems poised to pick up the honors.
McClintock hasn’t finished outside of the top six in any race this season and was runner-up at both the Big Ten Championships and the Great Lakes Regional.
The Great Lakes Regional is one of nine qualifying regionals for the national championship. McClintock covered the 10k course in 30:07, a 50-second improvement from his performance on the same course last year, although the course was slightly shortened.
McClintock said at Big Tens and Regionals, the race strategy was to stay with the leaders before turning on the burners late.
“NCAAs is going to be a race more of my style,” McClintock said.
As a freshman, McClintock placed No. 103 overall at the NCAA meet. At the time, he said he had higher expectations going into the meet but is using that performance to help prepare for tomorrow’s race.
McClintock recalled that he was in “just about last” after the first 400 meters but was able to maneuver his way through the pack.
The LaVern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute, Ind., won’t bottleneck as fast as the championship course last year at Louisville, but McClintock said he’s looking to solidify a solid position from the start.
“The biggest thing for this race for me is I have to make sure I get out quick enough,” he said.
One thing that will help McClintock is that he saw the course earlier this season at Pre-Nationals — one of the elite regular season meets of the season.
Cross country assistant coach Dave Hartman said McClintock’s sixth-place finish at the meet with that field should bode well.
“Matt ran on this course earlier and had a really great race,” Hartman said. “He understands what he’ll have to do when he gets in the race.”
This will be McClintock’s first race of the season without his teammates running alongside. He noted how important it’s been to him to be part of an improving team; Purdue’s sixth place finish in the Big Ten was the team’s best finish since 1991.
“It’s put the pressure on me a little more,” he said. “But it’s definitely given me extra motivation to push forward in races and make sure I’m consistently giving us a low stick.”
Regardless, he’s looking forward to doing something a Purdue runner hasn’t done in over two decades.
“It’s going to be more of an individual competition for me now,” McClintock said. “It’s going to be more of a grind-it-out pace to be able to pick up All-America honors for Purdue.”
The men’s race begins at noon tomorrow followed by the women’s race at approximately 1:15.