Like any sport where the ultimate opponent is a clock or tape measure, improvement in track and field is based on experience, training and progression.
Saturday saw the latest in each by Jacobs senior Nick Matysek, particularly in the 800-meter run at the 46th annual Carlin Nalley Invitational at Benedictine University in Lisle.
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Matysek was seeded second in the Class 2A/3A portion of the big-school, small-school meet, behind Marist's Kyle Hauser. Matysek saw the race start out fast -- he was running in fifth place when he completed the first 400 meters in 57 seconds.
"Yes, but that's what I need," Matysek said about the fast start. "I go out way too slow and I rely on just trying to make up ground at the end."
The rugged senior did catch up, but on this day was never going to beat Hauser, whose time of 1 minute, 53.98 seconds broke a meet record held since 1976. Matysek moved up to third, finishing in 1:57.89.
"I've got to learn to go out and stick with (the leaders) and then just reel them in," said the affable Matysek.
As Golden Eagles' coach Kevin Christian said: "When he figures some stuff out at the end of the year he'll be there."
Matysek also ran the second leg of Jacobs' fourth-place 3,200 relay with fellow seniors Pat Nerja, Ryan Ross and Tyler Estell finishing in 8:05.08 for a season-best time.
"It's a great group," Matysek said. "Not just us four guys, we've got another three or four guys we could plug in there and be just as good. Maybe even better, because we've got some young, hungry guys -- sophomores, juniors that can just go out there and run.
"Every workout's like a race because we have a group that's 10 or 12 guys deep," Matysek said. "They're all so close in quality, like Corey (Albrecht), who was in our earlier heat of the 800. He's there every workout with me, Ryan, Tyler, Patrick and all the guys, so it's a great group to work with."
Christian was particularly impressed by sophomore Sebastian Baran, who finished second in the 1,600 at 4:25.52, hot on the heels of St. Ignatius' Chris Korabik.
"He went after it, he didn't get intimidated by a good heat here," Christian said. "He went after them, went after the win. Fell short but he's still a sophomore, he'll be back a couple more times after this."
Christian threw freshman Dylan Rogers into the fire of the 400 dash, and Rogers responded with a fifth-place finish of 51.31.
"It shows a huge upside with him because he still has no idea what he's doing, and when he starts figuring it out he's going to be a stud," Christian said of Rogers, who also joined Estell, Ross and Jon Godinez in the 1,600 relay.
"He's just learning right now, first year really getting into it," Christian said. "He's going to be a big-time stud."
St. Ignatius won the Class 2A/3A meet, Jacobs placing seventh.