Top hurdling form has earned Soroco’s Mattie Rossi more than a state title chance
OAK CREEK — It’s not the times she came up short that drive Soroco High School senior Mattie Rossi, though that’d make plenty of sense.
She’s made the trip to the state track and field championship three times and is sure to make a fourth trip in three weeks, back to JeffCo Stadium in Lakewood for the grand finale of the track season and, in turn, her career as a Soroco Ram.
She’s been four times to race the 100-meter hurdles, twice now as a favorite, and she’s yet to come away with a state championship.
She’s hoping to change that this season.
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Rossi will very likely make that trip back to state once again as the favorite in the Class 2A girls 100-meter hurdles. She currently has the best time in the class, and it’s not particularly close. She threw down the best race of her career so far two weeks ago at the Demon Invitational track meet in Glenwood Springs, clocking in at a personal best time of 15.15 seconds.
“It felt fast,” she said, “but I didn’t know it was 15.15 fast.
“I think I can get better.”
That’s fast by any high school standard. It’s the seventh fastest girls time in the state regardless of class, and it’s the fastest in 2A by a whooping 1.46 seconds.
It wasn’t that time in particular, but the potential that makes a time like that possible that has given Rossi an opportunity to compete at the next level. She signed an offer earlier this week from Fort Hays State University in western Kansas to run on the school’s track team.
The town, Hays, Kansas, is a great fit, she said, larger than Oak Creek — most any possible choice would be — but small enough to feel like a college town rather than a big city. And the school offers ample opportunity for Rossi, president of Soroco’s Future Farmers of America chapter, to study agriculture business as she’s hoping.
“I’ve always been interested in pursuing a degree in agriculture and Fort Hays offered a track program I could run with and a program to study ag business,” she said.
That blazing fast time, 15.15, even surprised her. It outdid her previous personal best by more than three-quarters of a second, an eternity in such a short, quick race.
In one sense, the hurdles came naturally to Rossi. She started with them in sixth grade. She doesn’t have notably long legs like many of the best hurdlers. That she was one of the tallest girls on the Rams’ basketball team this winter says a lot more about the team than it does her.
But, she’s honed in on the technique of clearing a hurdle and on the precision of nailing the right number of steps between each hurdle.
“Mattie has great work ethic,” Soroco coach David Bruner said. “To be a really good hurdler, you have to put a lot of time in to do drill after drill after drill, and she does that every single day.”
She placed ninth at state in the 100 hurdles as a freshman, then was the top seed entering the state meet as a sophomore. She backed that up with the best time in preliminaries, but it all came apart when she false started in the finals and was disqualified.
Last year, she again entered with the best time, but that didn’t hold up in finals, and she placed second.
“I learned a lot,” she said. “I learned to calm my nerves and conquer the blocks. Last year, it humbled me.”
It hurt, she said, but it’s paying off, too.
She’ll also likely compete at state in the 300 hurdles, where she has already medaled three times, placing fourth each of the last two seasons and seventh as a freshman. And, she’ll compete with the Rams’ 1,600-meter relay sprint medley relay teams.
Heading toward the finish line of her final season of track, she’s again racing for a state championship, and no matter how that quest goes, she won’t stop running.
“It killed me temporarily, and by temporarily, I mean months,” she said of coming up short. “It doesn’t bother me now. I wish I had a state championship. It’d be great, but the experiences I’ve gained have been just as beneficial, and they’ve created my character and athletic persona. They gave me depth and taught me how to handle tough situations.”
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