The starter pistol blasts and the crowd roars as the runners start strong off the blocks. On the third and final mile of the race, Matt Carmichael starts to pick up his pace and pushes himself to keep up with the third-place runner. The two sprint the final length of the track and cross the finish line.
Out of breath, Carmichael looks back to see his time of 16 minutes, 0.55 seconds. He is in disbelief; he just broke Montclair State University’s indoor track and field record for the men’s 5,000-meter race by 12 seconds. His teammates scream with excitement.
Before he began running track, Carmichael played soccer, baseball and basketball as a freshman at Matawan Regional High School. He did not feel that he was good enough at those sports, and during his sophomore year, the school’s cross-country coach invited him to try running with the team.
Carmichael accepted the invitation, began racing and was doing well. It was then that he came to the realization he should compete in all three running sports: cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track.
“I wished I would have started earlier,” Carmichael said. “That’s one of [my] regrets, that I didn’t find it earlier, because maybe I would have been better earlier.”
He thought about quitting, but his teammates’ amazing performances on the track inspired him to continue his pursuit of track and field.
Transitioning to track and field proved difficult at first for Carmichael.
“I felt like there was that pressure to get really good, really fast,” Carmichael said. “But since my body [was] not accustomed to running all three seasons, it was rough.”
His tenacity helped his body adapt to the new conditions and he continued to improve his times. When his high school career ended, Carmichael strived to continue his track and field career into college.
“After I finished up my high school career, I think I had too much left to not give [college] a shot,” Carmichael said.
Carmichael wanted two things from his college experience: to be close to his home in Matawan and to have the ability to get an athletic training degree, while also competing in track. Montclair State’s indoor track coach at the time, John Brennan, reached out to Carmichael for an interview.
“[Brennan] said we’re a growing program, we’re looking to compete. You can go somewhere else and be an average runner, or you can come here… you can be the best runner on the team,” Carmichael recalled Brennan’s words from their meeting.
That was enough to convince Carmichael to join the Red Hawk family.
Now, as Carmichael finishes the 5,000 meter, beating his former teammate’s record, he cannot believe how far he progressed.
“It just shows that you don’t have to be a star runner in high school to compete at the next level,” Carmichael said. “It just shows all the dedication and hard work I put [in] throughout the years.”