10 Questions With Men's Cross Country Runner Matt Henderson
Sept. 3, 2008
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - The MVP of the 2007 USC Upstate men's cross country team, junior Matt Henderson, looks to pick up in 2008 where he left off last season. Henderson led the Spartans with a team best 41st place finish at the Atlantic Sun Championships last year. He also earned a career-best 12th place finish at the Charlotte Invitational and finished 18th at the Gamecock Invitational in 2007.
Henderson started off the 2008 season with a 67th place finish at the Covered Bridge Open at Appalachian State, good for second-best on the Spartan team. The Inman, S.C., native truly has a passion for distance running and has proven it through his accomplishments of two marathon finishes. He spoke to upstatespartans.com about his goals and aspirations to someday compete in the Olympics.
Besides boasting a strong athletic resume, Henderson also excels in the classroom. He was named a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference All-Academic Team last season, and was a member of the National Honors Society throughout high school.
Recently, Henderson spoke with Sarah Hurd of upstatespartans.com about his expectations for this season and his experience at USC Upstate.
What are some of the major differences you've witnessed between racing at the high school level and at the Division I college level?
I think that the major difference is the level of intensity. College races are much more intense. The competition is steadier and more talented because you're racing against former state and regional champions.
What is your mentality when you're in the middle of a race?
Basically, to get to the finish line as fast as possible. Runners go through so much pain and more often than not, my mentality is to pick off as many people as possible before I get to the finish line.
You were named the MVP of last year's cross country team. What are your personal goals for the season this year?
I'd like to make All-Conference and Academic All-Conference again. More importantly, I'd like to see the team do well and improve upon our times and placements last year.
Between cross country and track and field, do you enjoy one more than the other?
I love cross country because I enjoy running longer distances. I've competed in two marathons. The longer the distance, the better for me.
Do you have any superstitions you do before you race?
Not particularly, but I guess I do the same routine before each race. I eat pasta the night before and load up on water and Gatorade. I also pray before every race.
The men's cross country team was picked to finish ninth of 11 teams this season. Do you think you can surprise some people?
Definitely. We're much better than we were last year. Jackson has really turned some heads in his freshman year. He's in great shape and I think he's going to be solid for us. Joe, Conrad and David are also doing great and I they're really going to step it up for us in the next few meets. We have two secret weapons that will be racing in November with Kevin and Derek as well.
If you could pick one place in the world to travel to, what would it be and why?
Africa. I'd like to go train in Kenya and Ethiopia and see the difference in altitude and how big of an impact it can make. I've heard many people talk about it out there and I'd like to get a chance to go myself.
If you weren't a runner, what sport would you compete in?
I'd like to be a cyclist. I have a road bike and I ride it around when I get a chance. I do have aspirations of competing in the Iron Man competition one day.
What was your favorite Beijing Olympic sport to watch and why?
The marathons. I wanted to see Ryan Hall (US runner) do better but just seeing those guys compete is pretty fantastic. That's what I want to be doing someday.
You have your first and only home meet this Saturday, the Eye Opener Invitational. On Friday night, the team is hosting former Olympian and well known spokesperson, Billy Mills, for a pasta dinner. How much does this mean to the USC Upstate community and cross country team?
It's going to be great not just for our school, but for this Upstate community as a whole because it comes with important name recognition. Having a former Olympian runner of Billy Mills' caliber come to the Upstate community makes it official. The Eye Opener has nearly 70 teams competing and having Billy Mills there will also enhance the significance of the race and hopefully boost the overall experience. We're all really excited to meet him.