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Published June 10 2010

Minnesota state high school track and field: Mattson returns for another 100

Plenty of kids go to state track meets as eighth-graders. They’re usually competing in distance events.

Nate Mattson is headed to his fifth state track meet this weekend at Hamline University in St. Paul, but the Hawley-Ulen-Hitterdal senior took the tough route.

He’s gone five years in a row in the 100-meter dash.

“You see it sometimes with girls, but for a boy to qualify in the 100 as an eighth-grader is unheard of,” HUH coach Peder Naatz said. “He’s had quite a career, and he’s improved every year.”

Last year, Mattson finished third in the 100 and fourth in the 200. His time of 23.38 seconds in the 200 was a school record.

For Mattson, who is back at state in the 100 and 200 again, last year’s finishes were a far cry from his first impression at the state meet when he was an anxious eighth-grader.

“I’m this younger guy, looking at all these guys with beards and thinking ‘Wow. They’re so old,’” Mattson said. “But that helped tremendously. I got to watch those older guys and how calm and relaxed they were.”

Along with his loads of state-meet experience, Mattson starred on the Hawley football team for the last four years. His blistering speed turned into a lot of long touchdowns for the Nuggets.

“If there was a 67-yard dash on grass, that would be the best thing ever for me,” Mattson joked. “I would take my odds in that race any day.”

The Nuggets won the section title each of Mattson’s years with the varsity – and went to the Metrodome three times in the Class 2A semifinals – so competing on big stages is nothing new.

“One of his biggest strengths is his participation,” said Naatz, who was also Mattson’s football coach. “He’s got tons of experience, and he’s a kid where I’ve never had to worry about his preparation.”

Mattson put a little extra into his preparation this season, focusing on his starts and working with specialist Brett Beil at MeritCare in the offseason.

“Sprints comes down to who is fastest out of the blocks. Anybody can run straight and fast,” Mattson said. “I’ve really worked on that.”

The extra work paid off, Naatz said.

“Right out of the gate, he had some fantastic times,” Naatz said. “And the last two or three weeks, he has been running times comparable to the top times in the state last year.”

Mattson will be running in college at North Dakota State, and is looking forward to the new challenge – even if he’s going to miss football.

“Football is my favorite sport, but track is my passion,” Mattson said. “I love every thing about football – bus rides, teammates, everything. But track is individual from your diet to sleep.

“Track is you against everybody else. You can’t blame anybody but yourself.”

But before he dons the green and gold for coach Don Larson and the Bison, he wants to cap off his career on a positive note.

“It was an honor getting there as a young athlete, but I told myself then that it was the first step,” Mattson said. “Goals are a good thing, and I’ve always set my goals higher and higher.

“I did as well as I could last year, and this year, I’m shooting for the gold.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548