Golden: Sprint phenom Matthew Boling delivers on national hype – Austin American-Statesman

Cedric Golden @CedGolden

Sunday
May 12, 2019 at 5:36 PM
May 12, 2019 at 6:06 PM

Being a high school sprint champion is just one of Matthew Boling’s occupations.The Houston Strake Jesuit senior is also a rock star.During a rain delay Saturday at the UIL state track and field meet, he found shelter in a car parked near Myers Stadium.Not just any car. It belonged to a University of Texas police officer. In fact, there were three following him around Saturday, all decked out in their official black uniforms. The only things missing were headsets and a motorcade to get him back to Houston safely.At just 18 years of age, he’s getting the celebrity treatment. He’s already being mentioned as one of the greatest sprinters the state has produced, drawing comparisons to track legends such as Dallas’ Michael Johnson, Lampasas’ Johnny “Lam” Jones, Galveston’s Derrick Florence, Greenville’s Henry Neal and Dallas’ Roy “Robot” Martin.Now, don’t let the blond hair and unassuming nature fool you. Boling is a killer on the track, and he delivered twice in front of a packed house Saturday. In what he says was just his sixth time running the 100-meter dash in competition, Boling crossed the line in 10.13 seconds in the Class 6A race, breaking Neal’s 29-year-old national high school record of 10.15 and adding to a growing legend that started just eight weeks ago on a whim.And yes, he’s Caucasian, hence the nickname “White Lightning,” which has followed Boling in the two months since he took the track and field world by storm. Before the season, he was just was just another Houston sprinter. He signed with Georgia earlier this year to run the 400, a race in which he had a personal best of 46.15 and had won a silver medal in the 2018 state meet. He had been a member of the Strake Jesuit 4×100 relay team but had not run the 100 in competition. During the Texas Southern Relays in March, he decided to run the open 100 just for fun.Then his life changed.”I ran a 10.22,” he said. “I’ve kept doing it since then.”Two weeks later, he won the Texas Relays a blistering 10.1 — he also won the 200 in 20.58 — and then two weeks after that, he made national headlines when he broke 10 seconds with a wind-aided 9.98 at the Class 6A Region III meet in Webster. According to USA Track’s most recent times, it’s the fastest all-conditions 100 this year.By the time the state meet arrived, the attention was bordering on overwhelming. Autograph requests, national interviews, the broken internet, etc. One can be a great track and field athlete and still toil in anonymity, but when an athlete is dominating the 100, people notice. We’ve all heard of Usain Bolt — the 100-meter record holder at 9.58 — but how many of you have heard of Wayde van Niekerk? He holds the 400-meter record. It’s like boxing fans recognizing heavyweight legend Muhammad Ali and then being asked to name the greatest flyweight ever. Doesn’t compare.”It’s crazy,” Boling said of the new adulation. “It’s weird, too. I ran really well in the 400 last year, but no one really noticed. And then as soon as I started running the 100, everyone was like, ‘He came out of nowhere.’ I was like, ‘I ran the 400 last year.’ ”The buzz started early Saturday when he won the long jump gold on a wet track after settling on his second attempt at 25-4½. The electricity that evening surrounding the 100 wasn’t about any particular matchup other than Boling and history. He gave his start a B-minus — Galena Park North Shore’s Dorian Hewitt got out first in Lane 8 — but he quickly made up ground and was running neck and neck with University of Texas football signee Tyler Owens of Plano East after 40 meters.Owens told me he thought he could spring the upset at the midway point. “I felt his presence the whole time because he was on my right,” Owens said. “I knew I would get out first, but I knew he was going to come. I was just trying to keep my gait.”Boling closed fast, caught up and won going away, knees high, just the way Carl Lewis used to do back in the day. The crowd went nuts as the photographers clicked photos of the star. A couple of volunteers grabbed a quick selfie as he made the walk to the awards tent.”I’ve never been part of anything that got this much attention, football or track,” said Round Rock’s Ryan O’Keefe, the fourth-place finisher, who will play football at Central Florida this fall. “It was a great honor to run against someone who’ll probably be in the Olympics someday.”He might not show it outwardly, but Boling is pretty comfortable with the attention that comes with being one of the fastest humans on the planet at such a young age. Later Saturday night, he added to his growing cult following by rallying from 20 meters back on the anchor leg to lead the 4×400-meter relay team to a gold medal and his school to the Class 6A team title.As for the 100, he says he can go even lower than 9.98 this summer.What a great weekend for track fans. We got a nice glimpse of a game changer in the sport: in our state, in our country and, eventually, in the world around us.Matthew Boling is headed to special places, and he’s getting there in a hurry.

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