Athlete Feature 50 - Matthew Fayers - USA Athletics Scholarships

Athlete Feature 50 – Matthew Fayers

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Oklahoma State has long been known for its exemplary cross country program. 3 National Titles in the space of 4 years in 2009, 2010 and 2012, only ousted by arguably one of the strongest Wisconsin teams ever in 2011. The British talent that has gone through Oklahoma State can be characterized by Tom Farrell, one of the most successful British athletes to have moved stateside in the last 20 years. Leaving the UK as a 15:04 5000m runner in 2009, he became an All-American in each of his Cross Country seasons and finished his NCAA career in 2013 with a 13:15 5000m to his name. He was unfortunately denied the chance to run at the 2012 Olympics only through injury. With names like that before you, it is undeniable the appeal of Oklahoma State to a British athlete. So what is in the water at Stillwater? We caught up with Matthew Fayers to find out. In his 2nd year in the US, having redshirted a number of seasons, he recently became a sub-4 minute miler and competed at the NCAA Championships in the Oklahoma State DMR. He topped our list of the best up and coming milers in the NCAA. We got his thoughts on his time in the US so far and his expectations moving forward into this track season.

First of all congratulations on your sub 4 minute mile. Going off your track times it seems like you must have known you were capable of it! How did it feel to finally break it? How was the race itself for you?

The sub four mile has been one of my lifetime goals as a runner, and it was a great feeling to finally do it. To be honest it was a bit of a relief due to expectations placed upon myself and by others. My head coach wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it due to being in the B race, but I felt capable as there were some good guys in my heat and the pacer was a professional. Before my race I watched two of my teammates (Chad and Vegard) break four so I knew I had to. The race ended up being perfectly paced and I just sat back and covered all the moves. The race was a bit confusing as it was on 300 meter flat track and I spent a lot of time trying to work out where I was in the race. With one lap left Adam Palamar (3:38 1500m runner) from Tulsa took off and at that point I really wanted to win so made my move, going into the final 60 I took the lead and saw the 3:5 something flash up and realized I had done it. It was great as we were constantly getting results from Seattle where our teammates were running well and the group at Iowa ran really well also so to be part of that great day of result was fantastic.

How was racing at the NCAA Championships? For an aspiring athlete that has no experience of the NCAA, how would you describe it?

Racing at Arkansas was a great experience and I was happy to have made it to nationals. The environment is amazing; you are surrounded by world class athletes. I witnessed several world leading times and college records being broken. Athletes are sprawled out with athletic trainers doing pre-race work and numerous staff milling about, the level of professionalism is like nothing else. Otherwise the race follows the usual big race procedure, warm up in the warm up area, head to a call up area a while before your race, and a lot of racing when the gun goes off.

Were you pleased with your performance?

Personally I was not, our first leg did not go as expected (our team was changed just before the race) so there was a bit of ground to make up, I went for it but it did not go as well as I expected. As a team we did not perform and were one spot outside of being first team All-American which was disappointing. However we return everyone for the DMR next year so we have another shot at it.

What are your expectations for this coming outdoor season? What races do you have planned?

My focus this season will be the 1500 with my aim being to try and get the European u23 standard and try to get as close to 3:40. I would like to make nationals and be top 3 at conference. My race schedule is Arkansas 1500, Drake where I will run some relays, Payton Jordan 1500m, Conference, Regionals, and hopefully Nationals.

Do you have any intentions of racing in the UK/Europe?

My aim is to be selected and run at the u23 championships in Estonia, and I may race in Europe if an opportunity arises.

With Oklahoma State being renowned in recent years for its cross team, is there any pressure for you to perform over the cross? 

My first two years there hasn’t been much pressure as there have been senior guys, such as Tom to count on. Next year I will be expected to contribute and will have to do more mileage, as usually it is pretty low. I made the trip to Terre Haute this past season as a reserve and really want to race this time around. This will mean racing less this summer in track and starting cross country a little earlier.

How do you feel your team is looking for next year?

The team is looking pretty good, we should have a few additions who will help and the group we are bringing back is more than capable of a podium finish. Colorado are by far the favorites with 5 returning all Americans. Stanford, Wisconsin and Syracuse will be up there too and battling it out with. Last year was our first time outside of the podium for quite a few years and wasn’t a clear indication of our shape at the time.

As a miler, will your workouts change in order to try and perform well at cross?

In cross country the mileage is typically higher and we have two sessions a week, typically one is a 4 miler with my group aiming for 20 minutes or slightly below. Then we will do a 10 miler or 10×1 mile on the weekend. Towards the end of XC we move to more work on the course, where we will vary workouts equaling to 10k, such as 10x1k or 5x2k. For track we still continue 4 milers but mix in threshold stuff such as 1k’s, 800’s and 500’s. Eventually we do some more sharpening speed work.

What do you miss most from home?

English chocolate is a big miss, and I get my family to send me chocolate as much as possible as American chocolate is pretty rubbish. A good roast is missed also. Then friends and family of course.

Is there any advice you would give an aspiring NCAA athlete who is thinking about the move to the US?

Research is a must, there is plenty of information out there (trackboundUSA for example). You can see what kind of guys/girls these universities are recruiting, how they race, how many times they race. Don’t be afraid to contact a coach as the worst they can say is no. Also I recommend taking a visit; it’s a chance to see the team interact and the coaches and where you will be staying for the next four years. Finally, double check what the coach says as unfortunately sometimes what they say is misleading. For example I was told that my degree would not be recognized in England, however further research showed this was not the case.

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