by callum dick
Cross Country: At the behest of his friends and family, 16 year-old Matthew Rankin competed in his first State Cross Country Championships last month.
After a fifth-place finish over 6km in his maiden appearance, the Wide Bay runner kicked things up a notch just a fortnight later to take first in the Queensland Schools Championship and book his place at the National Finals later this month.
Already a budding tennis star, distance running is still a relatively new experience for Matthew, but he has taken everything so far in his stride.
"I only took running seriously the last few months,” he said.
"I knew I was good at it and wanted to see how far I could go.
"It feels good to get the experience, and to beat (the more experienced competitors) gives me confidence for future runs as well.”
Matthew felt inexperience got the best of him in his first competitive run, but in a sign of great maturity, learnt from his mistakes to complete a more measured run the second time out.
"It was my first time competing and I took off too fast at the start; at the last one I took it steady and kept with the front runners,” he said.
At first Matthew competed because he had a natural talent; now he does so because he enjoys the unique challenge.
"It's testing myself against others, and it just feels really good to sometimes be able to run so effortlessly,” he said.
With less than three weeks to Nationals, Matthew is not putting any expectations on himself ahead of the August 26 meet in Wollongong.
"I'd like to do well and maybe place top-10, but I don't mind,” he said.
"I'll be a bit nervous, but I'm also excited to run with different runners and see how close or far away I am from them.
"At the start I'll just want to stay with the front runners as much as I can. I really want to break the 20 minutes (mark) this time.”