There were times when Matt McClintock would be running with the lead pack at a big cross country meet and wasn’t sure he belonged. Despite dominating Class C cross country for three seasons, McClintock wasn’t loaded with confidence when competing against the best.

He belongs. And now he knows he belongs.

The Madison Area Memorial High School senior has established himself as one of the best cross country runners in New England, finishing third at the New England championships and sixth at the Foot Locker Northeast regional championships.

For his outstanding season, McClintock, who also won the Class C state, Western Maine Class C, Mountain Valley Conference and Festival of Champions titles, is the Morning Sentinel Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.

Despite a dominant career that includes three state and regional championships, as well as two conference titles and two wins at the Festival of Champions, McClintock lacked confidence on the biggest stage. He said improving his speed helped him develop the belief in himself to run with the best runners early in the race.

“As my speed improved it helped me get to the front of the pack and I was confident enough to run at the front of the pack,” McClintock said. “I belong in the pack. (The added speed) gives me that confidence to push the pace and make moves and attack other runners, which I didn’t have as a junior.”

McClintock had a strong summer running, concentrating on long, easy runs and came into the season with a good fitness base. From there, he went to work on his speed.

The plan was for McClintock to peak at the New Englands and Madison coach Brandon Hagopian ramped up McClintock’s workouts late in the season.

“We didn’t touch speed work until we were a quarter of the way through the season,” Hagopian said. “After the Festival of Champions and through New Englands we worked on speed.”

It was at the Festival of Championships last season that McClintock established himself as one of the best runners in the state. He won the race in 16:06 as a junior, then repeated as a senior with a time of 16:08.07 at the Troy Howard Middle School course in Belfast. This season, he went onto win the MVC title at the University of Maine at Augusta in 16:56 and the Western C title at Twin Brooks in Cumberland in 16:00.23.

And for the second season, McClintock ran the fastest time in the state regardless of class at the state championship meet. He won his third straight Class C title with a time of 15:52.92, again at Twin Brooks.

McClintock, however, made his biggest impression in the weeks after the state championship meet. As a junior, McClintock had trouble running with the lead pack and struggled to a 57th-place finish at the New England championships.

Hagopian went to work on McClintock in the days leading up to New Englands, trying to build his confidence and convince him he could win the race.

“We talked about New England and I told him, ‘You have a chance to win,’ and he said ‘I can’t believe I’ll be running with these kids,’ ” Hagopian said. “All these other times he’s fallen down and struggled, I told him, ‘You belong. You belong with the big dogs.’ “

McClintock took that confidence with him to Ponagansett High School in North Scituate, R.I. and finished third at the New England championships in 15:39. McClintock carried it to the Foot Locker Northeast regionals and earned a spot in the national championships by finishing sixth in 15:51.2.

“I think it is a really dangerous combination, you give a kid with pure, raw talent like him and give him that belief … once he believes he can do it, he is set up for excellence,” Hagopian said.

McClintock, who is leaning toward attending Lock Haven University next fall, will compete at the Foot Locker nationals in San Diego, Calif. on Dec. 10.

He’ll go with the confidence that he belongs.

Scott Martin — 621-5618

[email protected]


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