Local native Katie Matthews recently added another accolade to her running career.
Matthews, a standout athlete and five-time All-American at Boston University, was named 2013 America East Woman of the Year on June 4.
The awarded is given to a senior female athlete who best demonstrates a "commitment to service, leadership, athletics and academics during their collegiate careers," according to the America East.
The 22-year-old graduate student was chosen from nine other nominees to receive the honor. Recently, Matthews finished fifth in the national finals of the 10,000-meter run at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships with a time of 33:43.26. During the indoor season, she finished fifth in the 5,000-meter event at the NCAA Indoor Championships with a school-record time of 15:42.27. She was named a first team All-American and set three school records in 2013.
She will now be considered for the NCAA Woman of the Year title.
The NCAA award isn't the only thing on Matthews' radar. She has set her sights on road racing this summer and fall; her first stop was the Legends Run at Wesleyan University on June 30. Matthews was the first female to cross the finish line with a time of 22:02, narrowly beating UConn's Lauren Sara in the 4-mile event. Matthews was also scheduled to join the 60,000 participants at the 10-K Peachtree Road Race, a Fourth of July tradition in Atlanta, Ga.
"I want to start to make a name for myself on the roads," said Matthews. She is working with shoe companies for sponsorship opportunities.
Matthews maintains a rigorous training regimen, running between 70 and 80 miles a week.
She qualified for the 10,000-meter track and field event at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. She finished 22nd with a time of 33:45.22. Matthews said she was injured before the trials and didn't compete as well as she would have liked.
The 2016 Olympics remain a possibility. "I could be improving every year and running awesome, but in this sport, it's hard to predict three years in advance," said Matthews.
While Matthews said she wants to focus on a professional running career, she is also working to earn her master's degree in speech and language pathology. She is working in Cape Cod this summer, where she will complete clinical work. "As a runner, you're so dependent on your performances; if you're to get injured and plateau for some reason, you're not going to make money."
Matthews has not competed at the Boston Marathon, but was at the race when the bombings took place this year. She recalled being shocked and angry, but still determined to compete in road races.
"It made me want to run even more to prove that you can't take the heart out of that event," said Matthews. "You wait years to run a marathon; it's a huge part of these people's lives. So for someone to take the experience away from these people, it was very unsettling."
Matthews attributes a lot of her success to her roots in Rocky Hill. Although she has always had a natural talent, it wasn't until her high school coach Brian Graca recognized her potential that her career took off, she said.
"I would definitely credit my high school coach for being the catalyst for my running career," said Matthews, "He took me under his wing."
Graca, who teaches AP/Honors mathematics at Rocky Hill High School, is currently the head coach of boys' and girls' cross country and track and field. During Matthews' tenure at Rocky Hill High, Graca worked with her and told her that she needed to run year-round in order to be successful.
"She didn't really start taking her running seriously until junior year," said Graca. "Junior year of cross country was when she really came into her own as an athlete."
Matthews was a successful runner in high school. She won several indoor and outdoor state championships, including the t wo mile race during her junior and senior years. She was her team's MVP sophomore through senior year and received All-New England, All-American, and All-Conference honors.
Graca recalled Matthews' first big win. "We had talked a lot going into the state championships her junior year of cross country," said Graca. "I was fully confident in her winning." Graca said she was wearing a white long-sleeved shirt under her jersey and as he waited for the runners to come out of the woods to finish the race, he was thinking, "Come on Katie, show me those white sleeves."
"The first runner that came out of the woods had white sleeves," he said. That "was really satisfying as a coach."
Matthews still keeps in touch with her coach and former teammates in Rocky Hill, she said. She still goes home to run with friends and visit the Meadows.
"The Meadows is one of my favorite places to run and whenever I go home; I just can't wait to run there," said Matthews.
Matthews is planning a trip home this summer. She is also intent on competing in the New Haven 20-K in September and the Thanksgiving Day Manchester Road Race.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun