Running the show at Mt. Hebron


There are many facets to Matt Sanders.

There's the cross country and track standout who has become - in the words of one of his coaches - "the icon" of the Mount Hebron athletic programs.

There's the vocal talent who is a member of a barbershop quartet and has one of the leading roles in the school's spring production of West Side Story.

And there's the thoughtful leader who handcrafted a jersey for an overweight teammate when he learned that he could not fit into newly ordered uniforms for the cross country team.

"He's really an emotional kind of kid once you get to know him," said coach Mark Reedy, who - along with James LeMon and Christina Rosendorf - heads the Vikings' indoor and outdoor track and field teams. "There's another side to him besides what you see sometimes."

What many people - namely, his competitors - have seen is Sanders' fierce desire to be No. 1 and a not-so-rare inclination to rip off his jersey and stalk away angrily when he falls short of that goal.

But many who know Sanders said the senior wouldn't be a two-time state champion in the 3,200-meter run without his intense will to win.

For Sanders, searching for success has been a mission. Demoted from the varsity basketball team to the JV squad during his sophomore year, Sanders "transferred" to indoor track and immediately moved up the ranks to the varsity level.

With less practice than his competitors, Sanders qualified for the 3,200 at the state championships. A few months later at the outdoor track version of the state meet, he placed second.

Sanders found gold during his junior season, capturing the 3,200 at the indoor and outdoor state championships.

The final piece to the trifecta was a state title in cross country. After winning four meets - including the Howard County crown - Sanders placed second at the Class 3A state meet, finishing nine seconds behind Kurt Kuehne of Urbana.

"That was the one I wanted," Sanders said of his bid for a state title in cross country. "I think about it all the time. It was really one of the worst things to happen."

To add injury to insult, a plantar wart on his foot ripped open and forced Sanders to hobble the last 1 1/2 miles of the Footlocker Northeast regional in late November.

Surgery and rest helped him get back to his feet in late December, but Sanders went back to the sideline when he rolled his right ankle while running to a restaurant in Baltimore's Inner Harbor on Jan. 3.

He returned two weeks later, just in time for the Ivan Walker County championships on Jan. 29. He won the 3,200 in 10 minutes, 4.2 seconds and teamed with juniors Thomas Goodman and Joe Kim and sophomore Jordan Hoolachan to claim the 3,200 relay in 8:38.

But what observers might remember was Sanders' runner-up finishes to Wilde Lake junior Mehdi Bensarghin in the 800 and 1,600 and Sanders ripping off his jersey after the 800.

The display of anger surprised senior Seth Kampf, one of Sanders' teammates and closest friends.

"I told him, 'Look, you've been hurt for a month and a half, and you came back and you still beat me,' " Kampf said. "For the past week, he's been saying, 'I lost at counties. I don't want to lose [again]. I can't lose.' He's a different person."

Even Sanders recognizes his competitive spirit, which he grades at "10 or 11" on a scale of one to 10.

"I can always do better," he said. "Second place is just the first-place loser."

That desire makes Sanders one of the favorites for gold in the 3,200. He also plans to compete in the 800, the 1,600 and the 3,200 relay.

His plans include running cross country and track at Maryland or Miami. But Reedy said Sanders' mark on the program will be visible even after he has graduated.

"It's like when Carrie Selmer was at Glenelg [last year] - they draw everyone else into their wake," Reedy said. "Everyone's better having him around."

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