Milesplit: Matt has had a phenomenal cross country season this year coming off a great
outdoor track campaign last spring! What was his training like over the summer
and throughout the fall?
Coach Cucuzella: Over the summer Matt was putting in at least 60-70 miles each week with some in the 80s. Most was distance with just some speed workouts. In the fall he continued to hold good mileage but did more speed work in preparation for races.
Milesplit: He seemed to start out the cross season with some amazing times and
finishes, but then appeared to regress a little mid-season, and then he finished
with even more incredible times! What is your explanation for that? Was there
any concern during the mid-season? Did he ever become worried or doubt his
ability? How did you address it?
Coach Cucuzella: This was Matt's first year of full time cross country and I think the weekday dual meets and weekend invites tired him out some. He also had some iron issues that he straightened out. All year long the primary focus was NXN so we did not taper him for mid-season meets. No excuses, but his legs might have been a little tired at times. There is always concern at times, but we really felt he would be ready for big November meets. We just tried to keep Matt upbeat and remind him that this was his first full XC season and when tapered he would be ready.
Milesplit: He has stated before that he came over from soccer, what made him make the
Coach Cucuzella: Matt realized that while he was very good at soccer, he was an elite runner. It was a tough decision for him but he came to that decision on his own.
Milesplit: When did you know he would be a special athlete in cross country and track?
Coach Cucuzella: Each year we knew he would be special. When he ran 4:29 as a freshman and was All-American in freshman mile at NIN and NON, we knew he would be great. Sophomore year he lowered 1600 PR from 4:24 to 4:18 at MIAA Championships. That was a "wow" race. In his junior year the 4:10 at Southern Track Classic for full mile was an eye-opener also.
Milesplit: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Your background and personal history
with the sport of cross country and track and field.
Coach Cucuzella: I started running in 1979 during high school cross country. I actually wrestled at William and Mary but remained active in running. Two of my younger brothers were DI runners. I started teaching and coaching high school in the fall of 1986 and have been doing it since then. I try to run myself and even though my marathon and other races times aren't what they were in younger days, I still enjoy running every day and racing at a slower pace.
Milesplit: Matt just qualified this past weekend for the millrose mile. What went into
the decision to go all the way up to NY to run that mile? What was the
rationale and how did you know he would be ready to run such a fast mile so
early in the indoor season? What was the training like after Nike nationals?
Coach Cucuzella: Millrose had always been a dream for Matt and when we saw the new policy of qualifying at Armory meets only, we figured we might as well give it a go in the first race. Even though a runner is super fit after XC, you always worry that he hasn't used the mile gear in a while. We did a couple 400 meter repeat workouts with short rest to try to simulate a mile race. He was hitting 61-63 per 400 on very windy days, so we knew he was ready. The only fear was a very fast early pace. When the race went out slowly, we were very confident because of Matt's closing speed. He ran the last 400 in 58 and last 200 in 27 so the speed was still there.
Now it's time to focus mainly on Millrose with races up until Millrose mainly being tune-ups. Hopefully, things will go well.