KINGMAN – Before Matt Snay ever set foot on the track at Kingman High School, he already knew the feeling of being an Arizona state running champion.
At the age of 10, Snay won the state’s Hershey’s Track and Field 400-meter race in Phoenix, the first of what has become a long list of first-place finishes.
And while none of those wins have come at another state championship meet since Snay’s early days, the chances of it happening again are increasing – 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters at a time.
Now an accomplished middle- and long-distance runner, Snay is hoping to make up for a slow start to his junior year with a fast finish.
“One of his strengths is his physical strength,” said Scott Snay, Matt’s father.
“I think longer races from 800 meters and up are his forte because he doesn’t have tremendous turnover speed.
“He’s the type that will wear you down in a long race.”
Snay, a three-sport varsity athlete for the Bulldogs, has spent most of the year trying to regain the form that helped him become a regional champion in the 3,200 meters as a sophomore.
Shortly before cross country season began, Snay developed problems with his knees that caused him to struggle to stay in shape for his fall sport, and consequently, started basketball and track season a step behind as well.
“I lost a little bit of my speed and I think it set me back, but I’m starting to get it back,” he said. “I think I’ll probably get better. It’s just a matter of time.”
With a constant work ethic on the track and in the weight room, Snay said his times in the 1,600m (1 mile) are already faster now than they were last year and his 800m speed is about the same heading into next week’s Regionals meet. “In the two-mile (3,200m), I like to keep a good pace throughout the race, and 800 and mile I just gotta go,” he said. “The 800 is almost like a sprint sometimes for me.”
Kingman High distance coach Anne Bathauer said Snay still has some strides to take to run confidently and powerfully in four events at one meet but has the tools in place to race with the best runners in the state.
“It takes someone with a lot of self-discipline, and Matt has the discipline to run the miles over the summer and in the offseason to be very successful,” she said. “He’s very self-motivated, very goal-oriented to get the times he wants, and wants to know what he can do to improve. If he develops over the summer and works on his turnover speed, he can be looking at some of those Division I schools next year.”
Regardless of what happens at Regionals, Snay’s spot at the state track meet is already secure with three of his teammates in the 4x800 relay. The team’s time of 8 minutes, 18 seconds earlier this month at the Ironwood Invite was seven seconds below the state’s qualifying standard.
“I think that helped Glenn (Douglas) and Nick (Young) and Alec (Duranceau) and me to focus on running our other events to see if we can get our times down,” said Snay, who also ran the 4x800 at state as a freshman. “Last year I kind of got my first-time jitters out because I’d never run a race by myself at state, but relays are pretty cool, too.”