Friday, April 18, 2014

Mesa, here comes Matt!

Stop one on Matt's journey is Mesa, Arizona.  He will be flying out there on May 6th for the Desert Challenge Games.  There are only a limited number of opportunities for a blind or visually impaired athlete to obtain an International Paralympic Committee (IPC) classification, a requirement for any track and field event to count as a qualifying run to be considered for the U.S. team.  The Desert Challenge is one of those opportunities.  He had to submit detailed medical history and paperwork in order to obtain an IPC license.  Now that he has the license, he can get classified.  Unfortunately, he can't just go out and get classified.  He also needs to compete in one of the track and field events.  Since Matt graduated from college, he has run road races almost exclusively and the last time he did a race in spikes has been at least three years.  At the Desert Challenge, he'll run the 1500 meter and the 5000 meter events in the same night (FYI, today's high in Mesa is 91 degrees!).  The U.S. men's A and B standards this year for the 1500 in minutes:seconds is 3:56 and the B standard is 4:00.  For the 5000, it is 14:20 and 15:08.  (This can change year-to-year.)  Yikes, that's fast!  Matt's fate on the team isn't hinged on these events in May.  In fact, he'll have to compete in track and field events and marathons several times before the 2016 National Championship that will finalize the U.S. 2016 Paralympic Track and Field team.  If he were to run an A or B cut qualifying time in Mesa or at one of the designated meets or marathons before the 2016 National Championship meet, he'd be able to make the team and begin receiving the benefits that come from being a member of the team.  But that isn't Matt's goal for Mesa.  Matt has two simple goals:  (1) get classified, and (2) don't embarrass himself.  I think he'll be able to make both goals.  I wish I could travel there with him, but the kids and I will be cheering him on from a distance.  Hope you will be, too.

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