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Catching Up With Olympian Matt Tegenkamp

Published by
Scott Bush   on Feb 1 2013, 04:58 PM

12 years ago, Matt Tegenkamp won the USA Cross Country Championships junior men's title, winning a challenging race against Dathan Ritzenhein. Both athletes went on to run what can arguably be said is the best U.S. junior performance at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, as Ritzenhein finished third and Tegenkamp fifth. The two reunite this weekend at the USA Cross Country Championships in Saint Louis, Missouri.

Over the past decade, Tegenkamp has been one of the most dominant and consistent distance runners in the U.S. Numerous national titles, a fourth place finish in the 5k at the 2007 World Track and Field Championships, two Olympic Games and a sub-13 clocking over 5,000m easily rank him as one of the best American distance runners ever. As the 2013 racing season kicks off, Tegenkamp is evolving as an athlete. We caught up with the former Missouri prep champion this week via email, where he wrote plenty about this weekend's race, where his focus is going to lie in 2013 and much more. 

Scott Bush (SB): This weekend is the USA Cross Country Championships, where you'll look to make the squad that competes in Poland. What are your goals heading into the race and where's your fitness at this point so early on in the 2013 season?

Matt Tegenkamp (MT): This is a US Championship so the stakes are high and it is important to secure a spot on the team that is going to Poland first and foremost.  However, I have national titles for indoor and outdoor track as well as the road so I will be looking to add to my resume' this weekend!  

As for fitness, I don't really know, I had my usual December (not consistent) but a great January up in Colorado Springs.  I am healthy, topped off with altitude, and itching to race so hopefully the performance on Saturday reflects that!

SB: This year's championship is being held in St. Louis, MO. You're a Missouri native. What does it mean to you to be able to compete for a U.S. title in your home state and in front of family and friends?

MT: I have a great family and friends support system that travel all over the world to see different competitions over the years; so from that standpoint it will be nothing new. As for the Missouri fans; though I have not raced in Missouri since high school (13 years) I have always felt the love from Missouri natives. Apparently I have done something right :)

This weekend I hope I am on my game in a dogfight to the wire for the championship translating into an inspiring moment for some Missouri high school kids & coaches.  Missouri doesn't get a lot of national attention but there is a ton of talent in the state and I hope the effects of these types of events treacle down to the grassroots level.  I know this is cross but what better way to get fired up heading into track season!

SB: It's been 12 years, but back in 2001 you won the USA Cross Country Championship junior men's title and went on to place fifth at the World Championships, finishing just behind your USA teammate Dathan Ritzenhein. The two of you ran what is easily the best junior world cross performance in U.S. history. What's it like for you to be going head-to-head with Dathan once again, especially given the history between you two?

MT: 2001 was a special year (I think for both) as the "light bulb" went off as to what could accomplish by staying the course, put in the hard work and time. It is pretty crazy when you compare our two careers and how much they have in common with our success but also fighting back from many injuries along the way.

I am excited to go toe-to-toe again with arguable the best US cross runner for the last decade. It is going to be a big challenge but one that I am ready for and will not shy away from. My hope is the HOME FIELD CROWD gives me the edge I need!

SB: How is your 2013 season going to look different compared to your 2012 season?

MT: This should be a fun year with more consistent racing on and off the track. Main focus is still 10k Moscow!  

SB: This past fall you won the US 20k Championships, and of course you made the US squad in the 10k. Any chance we'll see you take a stab at the half-marathon in 2013?

MT: Maybe a half…maybe a full…never know :)  I do know that I have business left on the track but a future on the road!  

SB: Your training group has evolved quite a bit since last summer, with the addition of a handful of very talented runners right out of college. What's it been like for you and some of the more senior members of the group to have this injection of youth to the team?

MT: An injection of youth is absolutely the right phrase!  It has been an exciting and fun fall with great energy coming from the “rookies” which is contagious.  It is great to see how the collegiate system has prepared them for the jump to the professional ranks as they have stepped right in and handled everything thrown their way.  

I know our group is not the end all be all but the camaraderie that has formed cannot be matched.  I am now 31 and the "old man" but these guys keep me young at heart and keep me excited about the sport.  My hope is I can pass along some advice or share experiences that helps get them further along than I ever did!

SB: You've had an extremely successful professional career. What have you learned over the past two or three years that's helped you continue to succeed as a professional?

MT: Honestly, sticking to the plan! Schumacher and I have been through everything together both learning from positive and negatives throughout the career. He always has an open ear and always has my (athletes) best interests at heart. I wish I could share a special secret but the secret is he maps out a plan for the year tells me what needs to be done, I bitch and complain along the way, then I execute that plan!  

Quick Six

SB: Favorite food?

MT: If we are talking dinner, Halibut (fish in general). If we are talking dessert, don't care put it in front of me.

SB: Best race?

MT: That is for someone else to decide.... 2001 world cross, 13:04, 2007 world champs 5k, 12:58, 2009 US champs 5k, even the 2012 Trials 10k

SB: Favorite TV show?

MT: I flip between ESPN and HGTV

SB: Favorite website?

MT: It's more an app than a website, Flipboard

SB: Shoes you race in?

MT: This weekend the Victory 2, track is the Victory Elite or A special Promo I can't reveal

SB: Favorite city you've competed in?

MT: USA - Eugene (fans know track & stadium is filled); Aboard - Stockholm

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