With the national indoor track and field championships scheduled for this weekend, one would expect that Matthew Boling would turn heads as he has done since he became a precocious talent in Houston — before he began to shave.
If he were a football player, he would be accumulating rave review. His prospectus would be off the charts. Fans would be flocking to the less-than-adequate Georgia track, which lies hard by Lumpkin Street. Maybe fans will have that opportunity in the spring.
At this juncture, he can walk the campus without turning heads. In these pandemic-afflicted times with so many classes being virtual, the usual buzz and electric atmosphere is missing. His physical presence has not yet become iconic. The best guess is that it WILL.
If springtime, sunshine and a retreating virus combine to make it “business as usual,” we may see this modern-day Hermes bring glory to ‘ol Georgia at a level not seen in Athens since the early ’30s when hurdler Spec Towns was the best in the whole wide world. (Not sure about the appearance of Hermes, the Greek god of sports, but Boling’s short cropped, curly, blonde hair would get central casting’s attention, post haste.)
There is so much we don’t know about this young man. The dastardly COVID virus rendered him idle last spring and summer, dashing his Olympic objectives when the Tokyo games were canceled. Hopes for this competition this summer are hanging in the balance. The pandemic still has the upper hand although it appears that the Tokyo Games may become reality this summer, according to what we hear coming out of the Japanese capital.
What we do know about the remarkably talented Matthew, is that he still has not had an opportunity to showcase himself against the best collegiate sprinters in Olympic style competition.
Indoors, he competes in the 60, 200, 400 and 1,600 relay. He is also a long jumper. The following offers an insight with regard to his best up against the best times nationally and worldwide thus far in indoor competition.
♦ 60-meter dash: Matthew has a 6.64 clocking, (Third best in UGA history, and ranks him No. 11 nationally.)
♦ 200-meter dash: (school record holder), No. 3 nationally and in the world. The top two are LSU and Florida sprinters. This trio ranks 1-2-3 in the world. (And, you thought the SEC was a football conference.)
♦ 400-meter dash: (third best in UGA history), No. 8 nationally and No. 11 in the world.
♦ 1,600 relay (he and his teammates — Caleb Cavanaugh, Delano Dunkley and Elija Godwin — hold the school record). This foursome ranks No. 4 in the U. S. and the world.
♦ Long jump: (school record holder, eclipsing the mark of Champ Bailey in the 1998 SEC championships); Matthew ranks No. 5 nationally and No. 15 in the world. Interestingly, he is the youngest competitor world-wide in the long jump and also the youngest in a couple of previously noted sprints. There is room for improvement across the board.
It appears that he is better suited for outdoor competition where the distances have longer straightaways and more elongated curves as opposed to the tight turns and shorter distances on indoor tracks. Remember this is only the second indoor season in his LIFE.
“Matthew,” his coach Petros Kyprianou says, “is a coach’s dream so far. All his hard work is paying off as we enter the championship season. I am very happy with the way he handles himself on and off the track. His analytical mind and the way he processes our feedback in his development in both the sprints and the long jump, make him a very special athlete. Matthew is a jewel of a human and a damn fast Dawg!”
Superlatives apropos for him is that he would be “best all around” in most any class. He has just been named by the SEC as the “Indoor Track and Field Men’s Scholar-Athlete-of-the-Year.” He might be too tired to study after a long afternoon of workouts at the Spec Towns track, but his discipline is such that homework never is second fiddle and will never get the back of his hand.
Coming from Houston, he has been uplifted by the trees and landscape on campus. “I really enjoy going to class,” Matthew says. “The learning experience is over the top and I enjoy meeting so many interesting classmates. Walking the hills helps keep me in shape.”
A marketing major in the Terry College of Business, he has a 3.4 GPA. He also is pursuing a minor in religion and legal; the latter he believes will accommodate his business career which will eventually be in his priority focus. Religion speaks to balance, humility and selflessness in his life. He enjoys interacting with people and yes, Georgia coeds do turn his head. To him they are like the Athens landscape — beautiful.
Nothing, however, gets higher priority than his Olympic goals. At his age, he is likely to overwhelm with seasoning. He has to be a much better athlete than he was in high school. At the moment, that is all we have to go on. Please stand by.