Though he just took his last final on Monday, Matt McClintock admits it will likely be some time until it sinks in that college is over.

“Once I’m done running, I think it’s going to hit me in the fall,” McClintock, an Athens native, said by phone Wednesday night. “This is still normal. I still run into June but the weird part is going to not be starting classes in August.”

A senior at Purdue University, the star distance runner will look to make one last push in his collegiate career over the next month. Next up will be the Big 10 Championships May 13-15 in Lincoln Nebraska, which, coincidentally, will keep him from attending commencement ceremonies that weekend. He will compete in the 10,000-meter run on the Friday and then the 5,000 two days later.

“I’ve become better with this as I’ve gotten older, but you try not to treat (the championship meets) any differently,” the Madison Area Memorial High School graduate said. “I know my training has been really good and I’m really fit. It’s just a matter of running well on those days.”

McClintock was slowed at the start of the outdoor season with a joint issue in his back, but he said he is feeling much better now. He most recently competed in the Drake Relays last Thursday at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he placed fifth in the 5K with a time of 14:01.10. Evans Tuitock, a senior at Texas Tech University, won the race in 13:58.56.

“There was just a group of guys, we were all together and it was really fun to have a race like that,” McClintock said.

McClintock said the strategy coming into this season was to build toward the championship meets, and was encouraged by his performance last week.

That is not the only thing McClintock has had to look forward to, though. He will graduate with a degree in movement and sports science — “basically exercise physiology with a little biomechanics thrown in there,” he said — and would like to get into coaching at some point.

First, though, he has no intentions on giving up on his running career.

“(Purdue assistant) coach (Jeff) Kent and I are looking at training groups I could get involved in and keep running,” McClintock said, adding that his ultimate goal would be to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. “Until it doesn’t happen, that’s going to be my goal.”

McClintock admitted it is a lofty aspiration, but one he thinks he can chase. That ability to catch competitors and run smart races, after all, has served him well in his collegiate career.

“I don’t have the fastest PRs but I’ve been able to beat a lot of people because I know how to beat people,” McClintock said. “I know how to make myself hurt. That training of being tough will help you go far in this game.”

Personally, it has also been a good year for McClintock as he got engaged to his girlfriend, Haley McLeod, of Harmony, around Christmas.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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