The Waterloo High School boys track team isn’t the only one loaded with local stars. Dupo High School’s Matt McDonald is making his mark on the Illinois track scene as well.
“Last year I got fifth in high jump at state and this year I would definitely like to go back and place at state and do the same thing for triple jump,” McDonald said.
This year could be McDonald’s third time at state. He placed fifth with a jump of 6’4” in the Class 1A high jump in 2012. He also competed in the long jump and triple jump. The year before, he competed in the high jump and triple jump.
At the end of March, McDonald had a personal best in the Illinois Indoor Prep Top Times Classic in the triple jump at 43’2”. He took second in the meet.
“One of the reasons we do the indoor meets is for him to see the competition he will probably see at state,” Dupo track coach Kevin Acra said. “Last year, that jump would have placed him fourth at state. So he is excited about it.”
But for the 6’1” state medalist, seeing the competition also means seeing his friends and peers.
“(Kyle Landon) from Chester, he was the state champion last year. Me and him have jumped against each other a lot and we are pretty good friends. We talk to each other at the meet and cheer each other on,” McDonald said. “It is kind of cool compared to other sports where you are not really friends with the people you are up against. It is kind of different in track.”
Although McDonald’s roots were planted in track back in the sixth grade, he is a well-rounded athlete. He’s coming off a successful year on the Dupo basketball team, making the first-team 2013 Republic-Times All-Local basketball team and first-team all-conference in the Cahokia Conference Kaskaskia division.
But McDonald says being a good basketball player doesn’t always translate to high jump in track.
“You could jump just as high as you do in basketball, but that doesn’t mean you are going to get over the bar.”
McDonald has gone over and above the bar in the academic realm as well. According to Acra, the senior carries a 4.0 GPA and will most likely be the DHS 2012-13 valedictorian. This school year, McDonald was one of the Illinois Finalists for the National Wendy’s High School Heisman Award that recognizes top student-athletes in the U.S.
The senior has chosen to go to the University of Missouri and bypass college track, as he was accepted into a highly selective program at the MU Business School.
“I think a lot of people thought track was going to be in his future and we talked about it, but you have to take what you have to take,” Acra said. “I think he is a lot more relaxed because of it this year. He is not worried about, ‘Am I going to do this in college?’”
McDonald has also had to overcome a reoccurring injury. He broke his ankle as a freshman during football season and re-broke it again this summer.
“He is the kind of kid you wish the best for,” Acra said. “A lot of kids could get envious or jealous of him but they don’t, because he doesn’t come off like that. He has a maturity about him.”
With the help of McDonald and the growing track program — which had a total of nine kids participating when Acra came on to the high school program three years ago and now has almost 40 — Dupo now is competitive on the local track scene.
Acra says the boys team finally has depth and the girls team has built itself up to having a core group of veteran seniors. One of them is Melissa Settles, who Acra says is very capable of making it to state this year in the triple or long jump.
“They are helping establish this program for the future,” Acra said.
On Saturday, Dupo participated in the Staunton Invitational, where McDonald took first in the high jump at 6’2” and won the triple jump at 39’10.75”.
Settles won the long jump at 15’2”.
The team took fifth overall in the boys and girls competitions.
In other track news…
Also in last week’s Red Bud meet, Gibault sophomore Sarah Kuester finished second in the 800 meter run with a time of 2:48, tying the school record set in 2007 by Danielle Cooper.