Madison High senior Matt McClintock reached the finish line at the New England cross country championships last month in third place, the first Maine runner, and caught sight of his coach, Brandon Hagopian.
After falling at the New England races in Vermont and Connecticut the two previous Novembers, McClintock came through with a speedy time of 15 minutes, 39 seconds for the 5-kilometer course in Poganset, R.I. Hagopian figured the three-time Class C state champion would be thrilled.
“Coach,” McClintock said, “I’m so mad right now.”
“You’re mad?” Hagopian replied. “You got third!”
“I know,” McClintock said. “But I wanted to win.”
Hagopian laughed as he recounted the story, shortly before McClintock went on to qualify for the Foot Locker national finals by placing sixth in the Northeast Regional last weekend on New York’s Long Island.
“You can’t coach that,” he said of McClintock’s determination. “He’s one of those kids who comes along every 20-25 years.”
Unbeaten in Maine this fall and the fastest runner from any class at the state championships for the second year in a row, McClintock is our choice as Maine Sunday Telegram runner of the year for boys’ cross country.
Academically, McClintock stands atop his class. Philosophically, he adheres to the Steve Prefontaine perspective.
“He didn’t want to win unless he knew that he did his best,” McClintock said of the fabled runner who died in a car accident at 24. “I tend to not be happy even if I win, if I don’t get the time I want.”
McClintock won the muddy Festival of Champions by 20 seconds against a field of more than 200. At the state meet, he was the only runner to break 16 minutes. His sister, Allie, a junior at Madison, placed 13th in Class C.
“My dad always liked baseball and my mom never really did any sports,” he said, “so they joke and say they have no idea where me and my sister got it from.”
After making a verbal commitment to Pennsylvania’s Lock Haven University earlier this fall, McClintock reconsidered attending a Division II college after qualifying for the Foot Locker nationals. The challenge of running at the Division I level appeals to him.
“I’m going to keep my options open,” he said. “I’m starting to feel like maybe I can go to a bigger level and I’d really rather not have $40,000 in student loans coming out of college.”
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: