Jackson’s Watkins celebrates sweet success at 4A state meet | Track and field
Last updated 6/2/2017 at Noon
As he entered the home stretch of the 4A state 3,200-meter finals, Jackson’s Matthew Watkins heard a familiar voice in the distance.
Wolfpack coach Eric Hruschka was telling him to “just smile and enjoy it.”
After finishing second at last fall’s state cross country championships and then coming in second in the 1,600 finals two days earlier, Watkins was closing in on his first state title.
With the finish line in sight, it became clear to the Jackson senior that he was going to win the race.
“I enjoyed every bit of it,” Watkins said. “I enjoyed every bit of my last high school running.”
Watkins crossed the finish line in 9 minutes, 16.09 seconds, ahead of second place finisher Joe Waskom of Mount Si, who had a time of 9:24.12, at the state track and field championships Saturday, May 27, at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma.
“It feels incredible,” Watkins said of his first state title. “After the mile and not getting first in cross country, to finally win, it’s a cool experience.”
The two second place finishes definitely provided added motivation for Watkins in the 3,200.
“Knowing that it was going to be my last race, my last chance to do it, pushed me to go a little harder and to focus on it more than anything else,” Watkins said.
In a chat with Hruschka, the two decided that Watkins would make his move after 1,600 meters.
“We talked about making the move after that first mile and staying in control,” Watkins said. “I knew it was the right way to go.”
So 1,800 meters into the race, Watkins pushed forward and separated himself from the pack. No one followed him.
“I sort of got a good gap and was able to control the race for a while,” Watkins said.
In Thursday’s 1,600 finals, Watkins actually finished with a personal best time of 4:11.88, just behind Camas’ Daniel Maton, who won in 4:11.24.
Watkins appreciated all the help he received from Hruschka throughout the years. The two spent a lot of time discussing race strategies.
“He actually listens to what I have to say and he helps me with any problems,” Watkins said. “I couldn’t ask for a better coach.”
In addition to a first place medal, Watkins and his teammates left Tacoma with a second place team trophy, the highest finish ever for a Jackson boys track and field team.
“It was so cool to be there with my team for that,” Watkins said.
The four years of cross country and track and field were a major part of Watkins’ life at Jackson High School and he’ll be continuing his athletic career at Washington State.
“It’s been my life,” Watkins said. “These guys have your back always. They’re with you. It’s just been an amazing four years. I’ve met some good guys. It’s a one of a kind team to be a part of.”