Pridemore finishes career with state title

A little motivation and dedication goes a long way in sprinting, and Buford senior Matt Pridemore helped turn them into a state championship.

Last year's state meet left a bad taste in Pridemore's mouth and he used that to drive him to his title in the 200-meter dash at this season's meet.

"Definitely winning state in the 200 was great," said Pridemore, the Daily Post's Runner of the Year. "After finishing in third to (Charlton County's) Justin Williams last year, I was kind of set on beating him this time."

Williams and Pridemore actually switched places from the 2005 state meet as the Charlton runner finished third this year.

"I got a pretty good start and was a little bit ahead in the curve, but in the home stretch I started to pull away and that was a pretty good feeling," the Buford senior said. "I had been waiting and preparing for that one for the last three months."

Pridemore also finished in second place in the 100, an event that he had only been running for about three weeks prior to the state meet.

"Since freshman year I ran the 400 and the 200, but this year I just couldn't get my time under 49 (seconds in the 400)," Pridemore said. "It was like 49 time after time after time, and you have to run a low 48 to win state in AA, so I decided to switch to the 100 and save my legs for the 200."

That change came about two weeks before the Region 8-AA track meet, but the Wolves' senior was still able to come away with first-place finishes in both events, turning in a 11.28 in the 100 and a 21.98 in the 200.

"In hindsight, I think all of the training in the 400 made him a better runner in the 200 because as other runners were tightening up at 180, he doesn't start to tighten up until 380," Buford track coach David Snell said.

The move also helped the team out with Pridemore running in the 1,600 relay in addition to the 100 and 200.

Of course, switching events midstream wasn't the easiest thing to do.

"Hard work will get you a long ways in whatever you do, in sports or business or any goal that you're going after," Pridemore said. "Hard work will make up for the lack of a lot of stuff."

"He's not afraid to work," Snell said. "He's been such a leader for the younger sprinters and middle distance runners. With his athletic abilities and his work ethic, (running his senior year) meant everything to the team."

The Duke football signee showed his dedication to the Wolves' track program by running with a torn labrum in his left shoulder that was suffered during football season. He held off treatment so that he could complete one last year on the track.

"I signed a football scholarship to Duke and had the option of having surgery after football season or waiting and running one last track season, so it was definitely worth it to wait," he said.

That surgery will keep him out of commission on the football field - where he will be moving from running back to cornerback for the Blue Devils - for this season as he elected to be a grayshirt signee.

The grayshirt tag means he signed the letter of intent, but he won't enroll until spring 2007 and he won't count against the team's scholarship total for the upcoming season.

"I've got a trainer at the school that I'll work on my shoulder rehab with, and then I'll be back and forth between here and Duke with their trainers and doctors to make sure that I'm doing all the right things," Pridemore said.

He has seemed to do all of the right things on and off the track for the Wolves and that translated into plenty of good times while wearing the Buford colors.

"I want to be remembered as someone who wasn't born the most talented athlete in the world but worked hard to attain a goal that I had always wanted - to be the fastest man to come through Buford," Pridemore said.

There wouldn't be too many who would dispute his claim to that title, as he holds school records in the 100, 200 and 400.

"He really thrives on the competition, and has done a lot of good for this program," Snell said.

Pridemore will have plenty of competition once he reaches Duke, particularly if he decides to still compete in track.

"I would like to try to do both," Pridemore said. "There are already a couple of guys on the football team who do it so I don't think it should be a problem."

He already has a good start with his work on the track as a time of 10.35 won the ACC meet this year in the 100, while Pridemore's best time would have been good enough for eighth.

In the 200, his top time of 21.6 would have finished in sixth place at the ACC meet.

Duke finished in 10th place in the conference meet out of 11 teams.

"It would be tough, especially with the academic standards there, but I think with a 10.88 in the 100, I think he could go in to Duke and be an asset to the team right away," Snell said.