Finishing is the goal for Plateau Valley’s Hood
It started as a low rumble at the far end of Stocker Stadium.
Louder, the cheers and applause kept growing. Athletes came to the edge of the track and cheered encouraging words to the final runner of a boys 1,600-meter race.
It was a special moment.
More than four minutes after the winner crossed the finish line, Matt Hood charged on.
The Plateau Valley sophomore stuck to his methodical pace. With every lap, the crowd showered him with appreciation for a determined effort. When he hit the final stretch, he accelerated, his arms pumping, his legs churning, powering to the finish line.
And the crowd roared, standing, screaming support to a young athlete they didn’t know, a young athlete who would not stop until he finished every stride of those 1,600 meters.
Track and field is many things to many people.
For Matt Hood, he didn’t finish last, he finished.
His goal firmly accomplished, Hood proudly wears his Plateau Valley letter jacket as he strolls amongst the other athletes.
His competition is himself and it’s the clock that he tries to beat every time he races.
Hood is a big guy, and started running to carve off some pounds. He went out for the football and track teams and liked both of them.
“I knew I needed to lose some weight but I just wanted to play football and run track because they are so much fun. I just really enjoy it,” he said.
He enjoys the cheers from the crowd, but when he’s running, he keeps his focus on the race.
“I just try and leave my mind blank and focus on what lap I’m on and just try and push myself,” he says.
As a big guy running a little guy’s race, Hood just kept plugging along, running his race at his pace.
“At first I didn’t like it, but the more I got into it, the more I like it,” he said.
Head coach Brian Bristol said Hood is a great teammate.
“He showed up the first day of practice his freshman year and has always shown a lot of heart and has stuck with it,” he said. “He’s a real inspiration to our kids.”
Track is a sport for everyone — big, small, fast, slow, strong and not so strong. There are the great athletes who will go on to contend for state titles and school records, but for most, it’s the individual goals, the personal records, shaving a few seconds or tenths of seconds off their best time that matters.
But everyone has a goal, and the challenge is to get better. Run faster, throw farther, jump longer, leap higher, the goal is to be a little better than the previous meet.
Hood isn’t sure what he weighs now but he thinks he’s close to reaching his weight loss goal.
His teammate, Miranda Schowalter, said Hood is a special competitor and friend.
“It’s really great to have him on the team, because he’s always encouraging everybody,” she said.
And the team encourages him.
Schowalter, who is also a sophomore, said it’s always cool when the crowd and other athletes cheer for Hood.
“It’s really about your self-improvement and he’s been working really hard this year,” she said. “He’s been working hard for his personal best.”
Hood, who also runs the 100 and 200 sometimes and throws the shot, said at first, he didn’t really have any goals.
When it comes to the 1,600, he now has a goal.
“Toward the end of the season, I’m trying to get under my personal best, which is 9 minutes and 7 seconds,” he said.
On Saturday, he ran a 9:28.24 and the Stocker Stadium brought him home with a rousing ovation.
It was a special moment.
Hood has the simplest of goals, the same goal that every single competitor in the sport understands and embraces.
“I just try and run faster,” he said.