Vietzen Runs Downstate


Photo by Colin B Photography

Senior Matthew Vietzen runs past his competitors at the state meet in Peoria, Illinois.

Every year, thousands of people crowd the field of Detweiller Park in Peoria, Ill. They form a tunnel for the fastest and most talented runners of Illinois. The spectators remain silent as the race begins, but as the runners blast from the starting point, the cheers erupt.

Among these runners this year was senior Matthew Vietzen. Filled with adrenaline, he mentally prepares himself for the road ahead. This was a run that was years in the making.

Vietzen began running in fifth grade after switching from soccer. “I wasn’t really loving soccer anymore,” he said. “The work I put into cross country was more tangible to improvement.” Vietzen also said he felt he was “naturally better” at cross country than soccer.

Now in his senior year, Vietzen pushes himself harder than before. While the team did not advance to state this year, he was the only individual to advance from OPRF. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew it was well within my capabilities,” he said. “It was pretty awesome, knowing I was going to go down there.”

Head boys’ cross country coach Chris Baldwin described Vietzen as “passionate, and an extremely hard worker. He attacks and is very competitive, getting every last ounce out of himself.” Preparing for this cross country season, he ran upwards of 55 miles each week, running at least once a day, hoping to finish in the top 25 at the State meet to obtain all-State status.  In these seven weeks of training, he improved his time by 16 seconds.

At the competition, he ran three miles in 14:53, placing 28th. “It felt pretty brutal, to be honest,” Vietzen said. “But that’s how it is. When you’re running, you better be hurting.”

When you’re running, you better be hurting.”

— Matthew Vietzen

However, not all was lost. In the last leg of the race, Vietzen passed around 30 people. “I also beat my personal record by 10 seconds,” he said.

“It was a relief and an excitement for Vietzen to have this opportunity,” Baldwin said. “It’s an acknowledgement of his ability and drive for him to get to this point.

“He took 18th as a freshman in a tough conference, and for him to make 28th at State is a testament to his hard work through the years,” he added. At that conference meet, his three-mile time was 17:22.

Vietzen said he does not want to stop running. Though he wants to prioritize academics in college, he said he is hoping to become a walk-on athlete next year.

“Running gives you a certain amount of power,” he said. “I feel more energized, more focused, and less stressed.”

Baldwin wants Vietzen to take running as far as he can, whether he runs in college or take home an all-State medal during his final high school track season. “I think it’s in his ability to do it, no matter what competition he runs.”

“State is a prestigious event,” said Vietzen. “I wanted to make my team proud and to ensure all my hard work paid off.”

Reaching the most important meet of the year, as Baldwin said, is “a validation of where hard work can get you.”