Today we salute Matthew Driben of Wyomissing Area.
Driben closed out his strong career with PRs of 4:33.39 for 1,600 meters, 9:12.89 for 3,000 meters (indoors), 9:39.15 for 3,200 meters, and 16:12 for 5K (XC). He was a member of Wyomissing's state championship XC squad. His 35th place finish at Hershey proved crucial in Wyo's two-point victory.
Driben was a two-time state qualifier in XC and a two-time state qualifier on the track in the 3,200 meters. He answered some questions for PennTrackXC, reflecting on his career.
Throughout the end of June and through July we we be honoring our graduating seniors. To submit your own questionnaire to be posted on the front page of PennTrackXC, check out this page and email your responses to Dan Beck (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What was your most memorable race/competition?
My most memorable race was the 3200 at the 2016 District III AA Championships my sophomore year. I had a right hamstring strain at the end of cross country that kept me out of indoor track and a left hamstring strain that forced me to miss a month of outdoor track, impeding my stride as close as a week before districts. However, I couldn't accept that all of the rehabilitation and frustration I had been through had been in vain so the week of the race it was do or die. It was also my first time running an all-out 3200 fresh all season, so with no sense as to how fit I was, I went out super hard in a 4:58, which is unlike my usual race strategy of running even splits from the gun. I held on to finish in 10:08 for a 12 second PR and my first district medal. Seeing the rewards of working to beat that first major injury ended up becoming huge motivation that fall when I suffered a serious knee injury.
Where did you face your biggest competition?
I faced my biggest competition at two state championships in each of cross country (freshman and senior years) and track (junior and senior years). I was clearly overwhelmed both times at track states by the competition (and conditions this year) but I am grateful for the experience and the opportunity to run against some of the best guys in the state.
Out of all of your high school accomplishments, which stands out the most?
I'll always remember when the boys cross country team won its first ever cross country state championship this fall by a mere two points. We would not have won if any one of our top five had been five seconds slower (some of us had even less of a margin than that), so I was incredibly proud of our preparation and gritty racing that made the difference. We knew it would be challenging to beat several perennial contenders on such a difficult course, but the guys never gave up and thanks to their huge sacrifices we achieved our goal.
If you could do it all over again, what would you change about your athletic career in high school?
I would listen to my body more starting in track season my freshman year. I wasn't eating enough to make up for the more rigorous training schedule of varsity cross country and track, became too wrapped up in my GPS watch and taking my easy runs too fast, and didn't let my body recover when my muscles were fatigued or tight, so I had a lot of growing pains throughout my high school career that caused injuries. Now, I make sure I get enough to eat, I cross train and take days off more often, and have not owned a GPS watch in nearly two years.
What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?
My hamstring and knee injuries were the most difficult obstacles I have had to overcome. I've spent a combined three seasons of my high school career injured and missed many opportunities to get better and have fun. Physically, not only did I have to do a lot of bike and elliptical workouts to maintain my aerobic fitness, but I also had to spend a lot of time when I did get healthy regaining the speed I had lost. There were a lot of times when it would have been easier to give up but pushing through was totally worth it. Despite my injuries, I managed to cut off time every year in both the 1600 and 3200.
What will you miss the most?
What will you miss the most?
I will miss my teammates and coaches for all of their support, and the competitors across Berks County and District III for helping push me to keep improving.
Do you have any advice for younger athletes?
Don't take running for granted. Running is not the only component of training to take seriously: Diet, sleep, stretching, strength, and recovery will seal the deal. Stay positive.
How have your coaches influenced your performances and your life goals overall?
I have had Coach Hetrich, the head cross country coach, since Jr. High track. He has taught me to not make excuses and that team goals exceed individual goals. I have had Coach Uliasz, the assistant cross country coach and track distance coach, since 9th grade. He has helped me stay focused and run smarter through his meticulous collection of splits in addition to showing me what dedication means (he stayed past midnight at a Franklin and Marshall indoor meet to coach me through a 3k). I have had them in economics and psychology, respectively, in high school, so I have learned valuable lessons outside of running from both of them as well.
What are your post-high school plans?
I will be studying and running varsity cross country and track at Brandeis University, which is located just outside of Boston. I'm currently undecided as to what I want to study, but I couldn't be more excited to join the men's team in less than a month.
From the beginning, Kyle Shinn and Jack DiCintio were my role models for how to train and stay disciplined. My freshman year the senior captains Alex Bonino and Gavin Babb also helped me significantly. These last few years I've had the pleasure of training with Josh Diehl, Thomas Foster, and Ryan Vargo and seeing them develop into great runners and better people. (Although not distance runners, throwers Hunter and Evan Niedrowski made a significant impact on me this year, too.) Ben Kuhn and I have done countless workouts together and I'm going to miss him as my training partner. And of course, Joe Cullen, in addition to being the best (and gutsiest) runner in school history, has also been the best teammate and leader I could have asked to spend the last six years with. I wish all of them the best of luck.