If Scotland County R-I students needed any more incentive to think about participating in track next year, Matthew Woods just put the punctuation mark on the coaches’ recruitment speeches.
With a new all-weather track set to be constructed this summer and ready for action for the 2020 season, SCR-I appeared to have plenty of excitement building for the program. But if the new facility wasn’t enough to get young Tigers and Lady Tigers interested, “Woody” as he is affectionately called by his fellow students young and old, put the icing on the cake with the boys’ program’s first ever state championship this weekend.
While winning a state title is an amazing accomplishment, what makes Woods’ story even more interesting, was he did it in his first year in track.
“I ran track in junior high, but it was just distance runs,” said Woods. “Coach Carper had been after me to come back out the past few years and I’m glad he stayed after me.”
Coach Carper was equally as pleased with the results of his persistent recruitment.
“I had asked Woody every year to come out for track and give it a try,” he said. “I knew that he could help our team and that he would excel in the running and jumping events. I guess he finally got tired of my asking and decided to give it a try, and I’m glad that he did.”
Woods became the first male athlete in SCR-I history to win a state title, with Nicki Webber, the only other SCR-I athlete to achieve the accomplishment in track. He brought home a state championship in the Missouri Class 1 long jump competition. It took a personal best leap of 22-feet 0.5 inches to earn the top spot on the podium in Jefferson City on Saturday.
“Each jump down at the state meet he just kept breaking his personal record,” said Carper. “His last jump was a monster, his toe went over the scratch line for a “scratch” or “foul” but they showed him the mark of 22’8 his jaw almost hit the ground.”
It was only fitting that Woody saved his best for last. The question is, was it his last? Previously the senior, an all-state performer on the football field had expressed interest in trying to secure a scholarship to attend college based on his pass catching skills.
“To be honest, going into the year, I never expected to make it to state, especially not in the long jump,” said Woods. “So we’ll see. If I were to get some scholarship offers, it would just be another good surprise.”
After seeing Saturday’s performance, it seems quite possible that collegiate track programs out there might try to capitalize on his raw athleticism to move him to pursue a track career.
“Woody is just scratching the surface from one season of jumping,” said Carper. “A school would be getting a diamond in the rough if they gave him a shot.”
But it isn’t just his jumping ability that will get the track program’s attention. Woods also finished third in the 100-meter dash in a personal best time of 11.51 seconds.
“Woody is a natural when it comes to running and jumping,” said Carper. “His long jump form has improved so much over the year. He has a different way of marking his steps, jumping, and landing, but it works for him. He had gained so much confidence over the track season and everything just seemed to click down in Jefferson City.”
It was a busy two days in the state capital for the SCR-I senior. He qualified in all four of his events.
Woods ran the 10th best time in the 200 meter dash preliminaries and didn’t qualify for the finals Saturday. However he still ran a 200 meter race on Saturday, anchoring the SCR-I 4×200 meter relay team that earned a spot on the podium with a fifth place finish.
That meant Woody brought home three state medals total, helping the SCR-I program finish 10th place over all at state. Not bad, for a kid who had never run track before.
Woods walked across the stage the following day to graduate with the SCR-I Class of 2019.
Carper and girls’ track coach Kim Small are hoping his performance, teamed with the new track facility will help lead to even bigger and better things in 2020.
“The kids we took to state are excited about the future,” said Carper. “I heard a lot of talk about next season and how the kids are going to be faster and stronger for next season. We try to make state as fun as possible and the kids love the experience. I hope the new track and our success this season helps build an excitement around Scotland County for the sport of track.”