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Matthews rekindles athletic dream

Richard Bryan, Gleaner Writer

Never give up on a dream. For the now MVP and University of Technology (UTech) bound Peter Matthews, who won the Boys Class One 800m title at Champs, this adage has become a life-changing realisation.

It could have been so different eight months ago, as he took off his boots one final time for his school at the end the 2008 daCosta Cup football season. His track and field hopes had already faded into oblivion. If anything at all, perhaps he had one more run in him at the Central Champs to come three months later and that would be, he thought, as far as track and field was concerned.

It had almost past unnoticed that seven years prior, Matthews, as a 12-year-old competing forMcIntosh Memorial Primary, had displayed the signs of a fabulous path in track and field when he was declared champion boy after winning the boys, 100 and 200m at a District Association (DA) sports meet in Manchester.

That prospect was definitely enhanced when he later represented the parish of Manchester in the national schools championships at the National Stadium.

"When I passed my exam (GSAT), I wanted to go to a school that I could do athletics, but it never worked out," lamented Matthews.

He explains that his mom, who he admits has had a strong, positive influence on his life, was so happy he had passed and was keen on getting him ready for high school that attempts made by the then Manchester High school athletics coach to transfer him to that school never took priority.

DeCarteret College does not have a tradition in athletics so pretty soon, Matthews said the focus was changed to football.

Transcript changes

However, enter coach Orin Gordon and the transcript changes dramatically by the end of January 2009.

Then 19 and in sixth form, Matthews was to regain a new lease on the obvious early talent he had displayed at primary school.

The 37-year-old Gordon, a qualified International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) level 2 coach, had joined the staff at deCarteret College in September 2008 as a maths teacher, but had developed some reputation, having guided little-known Jermaine Blake to second place behind the irrepressible Kemoy Campbell in the 5000 metres at last year's Champs.

But Matthews, who resides in the quiet, but hilly community of New Hall near Royal Flat, reminded that the then prospects of salvaging something significant on the track looked remote.

Matthews told The Gleaner: "Even when Mr Gordon came here and invited me to track and field training, I told him I was not interested. I never had a coach, things never worked out for me even when I wanted to run and I just couldn't bother with it in my final year."

Gordon's insistence nudged him, especially as he reminded him he had seen him (Matthews) run at last year's Central Champs (400m final) and felt he was much better than his fifth-place finish suggested. Gordon was also able to get Matthews to make a strategic shift to the 800.

"Based on his stride length and cadence, I felt he was more suited to the 800," explained Gordon. "The time he could run would give him a better chance at Champs. He may end up being an excellent 400m runner 'cause he did a 46-something split on our 4x400 at Champs, but at the time I didn't feel I could get him to complete the kind of workload that was needed to get that time in the flat event."

Best of the time finals

Securing the best of the time finals in the 800m event at a Jamaica College meet proved pivotal, but it was the second-place finish at Central Champs that was able to drive the momentum that left little doubt that he would be in contention when Champs came around.

"Now that I had a good coach, I became a lot more confident," Matthews noted. "I was still not sure I was going to win as I always felt the other guys were better."

Gordon said he understood Matthew's doubt and he deliberately kept from him the pre-Champs magazine prediction which had Matthews in line for seventh place.

Matthew's performance took many by surprise, even the Champs announcer. Because he was clad in a white jersey with a purplish-looking tinge, he was twice mistaken for a Kingston College athlete.

Since winning the Champs gold, much has changed. In addition to being the most recognisable sixth-former at his school, he received three scholarship offers from American universities.

Winning the 800m at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Open certainly convinced most. He was a genuine talent to be pursued. Local athletic powerhouse MVP Track Club has since approached Matthews, an offer he is currently undertaking.

Matthews told The Gleaner, God had weighed in his rekindled interest in track and field.

"I really feel good about all that is happening. God gave us talents and I am glad he has given me back this opportunity in track and field. I am taking the training seriously and I feel it is going to develop."

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