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Houston track & field whiz set to compete in Great Southwest meet

Matthew Boling, a phenom from Houston, signs a shoe for a fan at UNM’s track and field complex Friday on the eve of his first competition in New Mexico. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Matthew Boling was among the last athletes trickling in to the University of New Mexico’s track and field complex Friday.

Atypical placement, to say the least.

Boling, the standout sprinter who has taken the country by storm in recent months, was the victim of a flight delay on his way to Albuquerque from hometown Houston. But nothing is likely to slow Boling on Saturday as he competes in the 44th annual Great Southwest Track and Field Classic.

Boling is still getting used to the media spotlight that’s followed him since March, when he posted a blazing, wind-aided 9.98 time in the 100 meters. He’s now a contender to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and looks forward to testing himself Saturday.

“This is my first high-altitude meet,” Boling said before hitting the track for Friday’s practice session. “That was kind of the attraction coming here, but I’m looking forward to good competition, too. It’s a good test.”

Boling plans to compete in the 100 meters, long jump and to join some of his Texas competitors for a leg of the 400-meter relay. He doesn’t prefer one event over another but does have a specific goal for Saturday’s 100 — an event he’s only been running competitively since March.

“Definitely to get under 10.1 (seconds),” he said. “That’s the goal.”

If Boling accomplishes it, he’ll have a shot at Anthony Schawartz’s meet record (10.09 seconds) set last year. Boling probably will qualify for a few more media interviews, too.

“It’s been crazy,” Boling said of the national attention he’s receiving. “It happened so fast — it’s all been since spring break. But it’s kind of fun, too.”

Boling is hardly the only big-name athlete competing Saturday, and some of the more intriguing races will feature girls sprinters. Florida’s Briana Williams, named girls outstanding meet performer at last year’s Great Southwest, said she’s gunning for the meet 100-meter record she narrowly missed in 2018. Williams clocked an 11.25-second time, just off Ashley Owens’ 11.20 set in 2004.

“I got a nice tailwind here last year,” Williams said, “but I really just try to block everything out and go.”

The girls’ 800 also stacks up as a race to watch with Arizona’s Dominique Mustin taking a shot at Christina Aragon’s 2016 meet record of 2:06.09. Mustin has bettered that time this year and doesn’t think altitude will present a problem.

“I’ve set (personal records) here a couple of times,” Mustin said with a smile. “No problem.”

Six New Mexicans competing in Saturday’s events hope Mustin is mistaken. Asked if Albuquerque’s altitude and often-blustery conditions provided them with a home-track advantage, they responded as a group: “Yes.”

Sandia sophomore Adrianna Tatum broke the state’s overall 100-meter record last month with a 11.69-second sprint. She’s looking forward to being pushed in the 100 and 200 Saturday and hopes the thin air provides a competitive edge.

“It’s a little nerve-racking going against these amazing runners,” Tatum said. “But some people don’t know how to breathe up here and we’re used to that. Hopefully, the competition will bring our times down.”

Eldorado distance standout Jasmine Turtle-Morales, who will compete in the 3,200-meter run, agreed. Turtle-Morales has tested herself against elite-level competition before and relishes the challenge.

“I love competing against great athletes,” she said. “I just pushes you harder.”

Other New Mexicans in Saturday’s field include Taos sprinter Jonah Vigil, Volcano Vista middle-distance runner Aryanna Gomez and Albuquerque Academy throwers (and siblings) Teagun and Sterling Glenn.

Saturday’s competition schedule starts with field events at 10:30 a.m. and track preliminaries at noon. Opening ceremonies are set for 5 p.m. track event finals to follow. The elite 100-meter sprints begin at 5:30 p.m.

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