The weight of his own expectations was starting to take away from Matthew McClintock’s enjoyment of competing on the cross country course. So he took the formula he’d used to become one of the top runners in the Big 10 Conference and, for at least one race, tossed it aside.

It was the NCAA Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind., the site of the upcoming NCAA Championships. McClintock, a Purdue University junior from Athens, scrapped his proven strategy of letting others set the pace early and conserving his energy for the latter stages of the race.

“That race, I made a point of going out in front early,” he said. “It was a really fun race, and it sort of reestablished the fun of competing for me.”

The 20-year-old led all Big 10 runners with a sixth-place finish. Beyond his place in the standings, he rediscovered the sense of satisfaction he’d had just for competing in races earlier in his career at Purdue and Madison Area Memorial High School.

“I’ve always had a lot of fun racing and competing. I think I’d just started doing what I was supposed to do, but I don’t think I was doing what I was capable of doing,” he said.

The pressure to perform, most of it self-imposed, had started to overwhelm why he’d become such a successful cross country runner in the first place,

In the meet preceding Pre-Nationals, the Notre Dame Invitational, McClintock followed his usual plan but went out too slow. He lost a shoe during the race and finished third.

“It was the first meet I felt I could have really won but because I didn’t go where I was supposed to and because I was nervous, I didn’t finish up where I really felt I should,” he said.

McClintock went from throwing caution to the wind in the Pre-Nationals meet to being thrown back by strong winds at the Big 10 Championships on Nov. 2 in Iowa City.

“It was really windy that day and really difficult for me to go out and take control when I wanted to,” he said. “I was hoping to make a move around the 5k mark, but I had to sit back a little longer.”

McClintock and three of his conference rivals separated themselves by the 6k mark, with McClintock running side-by-side with Michigan’s Mason Ferlic in the lead. He was able to hold Ferlic off, but with about 300 meters to go, Wisconsin runners Malachy Schrobilgen and Michael VanVoorhis overtook him on the course’s final hill.

McClintock finished third and established a new personal record, 23:39.9.

“Obviously, I wanted to win and I could have won, but I think I ran as well as I could have,” he said.

Next up for McClintock is a tune-up/qualifier at the Great Lakes Regionals in Madison, Wis. on Friday. Race distances increase from 8k to 10k for regional and nationals.

McClintock’s goal going into the season was to peak at the end. He got off to a slow start, but he altered his training regimen to give his body a better chance to recover between meets and extend his season. With the help of first-year assistant Jeff Kent’s hands-on, motivational approach, he believes he’s on the right path to running his best race at the national championships on Nov. 22 and dramatically improving upon last year’s 37th-place finish.

“It’s the last race. You’ve got to put it all on the line,” he said. “I’ve been saying all year I can be top 10, and I think I can do it, so that’s what I’m shooting for.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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