By PATRICK SLACK
Two-time Pillager state champ will now compete for NDSU
Matt Neururer’s trophy case was already pretty full.
After competing on state relays the previous two seasons, the Pillager senior won individual state track and field championships in the high jump and 800-meter run this spring.
Now, the recent Pillager graduate, who lives near Lincoln along the western border of Morrison County, is the owner of the ultimate state award, being named the 2013 Gatorade Minnesota Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
In addition to athletic success, the award also emphasizes academic achievement and character displayed on and off the track, virtues very important to Neururer.
“To me, academics have always been the first priority,” he said. “Going to college now at NDSU (North Dakota State University), I was contemplating whether to go in track because I know that track is going to be a bit of a burden on my schedule. I want to double major in electro engineering with a specialty in biomedical engineering and major in art, and I was trying to decide whether I should focus on my art and also on my academics or whether to go into track.”
However, NDSU has a good program in place to help its athletes academically, Neururer said, with the ability to fit in workouts around his schedule since he competes in individual events.
Neururer, who has signed a Letter of Intent to compete in track and field on an athletic scholarship, didn’t know about the Gatorade Athlete of the Year program until his high school coach asked him for recommendation letters, then told him about the award.
“I was really excited after I got this Gatorade Athlete of the Year,” Neururer said. “I wasn’t really expecting much. I was really shocked and excited. I was really surprised that I got the award. There are a lot of good athletes out there.”
On the track, it was the third year Neururer had competed at state on the Pillager 4×400 relay team, but the first time he had advanced individually.
A day after advancing to the finals of the 800 by placing second in his preliminary in 1:55.96, he competed in the high jump finals in the late afternoon.
Five competitors finished with a height of 6-feet, 5-inches, but Neururer came in one inch better, clearing 6-feet, 6-inches to win the state title.
But after a few moments of celebration, he had to regroup for the 800 finals, taking place shortly after.
“My parents went over there and congratulated me with my coach and my teammates,” Neururer said. “After that I kind of went off on my own and tried to focus on the 800, just do my warm-ups and stretches.”
With one title in his back pocket, Neururer, who entered state with just the 14th-best section qualifying time out of 16 participants, would have been content with his first-ever sub-two minute time from the previous day.
“For me that was awesome,” Neururer said. “I would have been happy with that.”
He wouldn’t have to settle for simply happy, though, charging down the homestretch with another title, winning the event in 1:56.52.
“I was really excited,” Neururer said. “I guess I was almost in shock, really. I had never ran under two minutes in the 800 before that, so I wasn’t really expecting much.”
“I don’t know what happened, I know one of them ran the mile right before that – I’m sure that took a lot out of him,” he said. “I was surprised, shocked, that I got first.”