By Jonathan Gault
May 12, 2019
The legend of Matthew Boling grew at the Texas state meet this weekend.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, by now you’ve heard about the high school sprint phenom who has been setting the track on fire this spring. Boling, a senior at Strake Jesuit College Prep in Houston, has over 16,000 Twitter followers, has been featured on ESPN’s High Noon, and has radio hosts talking about him five states away.
Track is being discussed on Detroit sports talk radio. This is unheard of. They barely talk nba. Matthew Boling and race the topic.
— Nick Willis (@nickwillis) May 12, 2019
While Boling has been very good at the high school level for a long time (he long jumped 23-11 in 10th grade to get 4th at high school nationals and ran 47.38 for 400 that year), Boling burst into the nation’s consciousness at the Texas Relays in March, winning the 100 meters in 10.20 (+2.2 m/s wind) and jumping 26-3.5 (8.01m) in the long jump — the longest jump by a high schooler in 10 years. By late April, he was the national leader in three events: the 100 (10.22), 200 (20.58), and long jump (26-3.5).
But that was just a prelude to what was to come on Saturday, when Boling won three events during a remarkable performance at the Texas 6A state meet in Austin. Boling’s day began in the long jump, where he got out to 25-4.5 (+2.2 wind) on his second attempt before passing the final four rounds to conserve energy for his track events. That was still enough to win the competition by over a foot.
Boling’s first track event of the day did not go so smoothly. While he anchored his Strake Jesuit squad in the 4×100 relay to third across the finish line, they were disqualified for a zone violation. But he made up for it the next time he stepped on the track for the 100-meter final, ripping off a personal best of 10.13 (Boling’s previous wind-legal pb was 10.22; he also ran 9.98 with a 4.2 m/s tailwind on April 27).
— Track and Field News (@tandfn) May 12, 2019
Many outlets reported Boling’s time as a national record, and while it was a National Federation of High School Athletic Association record (fastest mark by a high schooler during the regular season against high-school-only competition), it wasn’t the fastest 100 ever by a US high schooler. That remains Trentavis Friday‘s 10.00, set at the US junior championships in shortly after Friday graduated HS in July 2014.
Boling is now tied for fourth on Track & Field News‘ all-time wind-legal high school 100-meter list, which we consider to be the definitive all-time list.
|10.00||Trentavis Friday (Cherryville, North Carolina)||2014|
|10.01||Jeff Demps (South Lake, Groveland, Florida)||2008|
|10.09*||Anthony Schwartz (American Heritage, Plantation, Florida)||2018|
|10.13||Derrick Florence (Ball, Galveston, Texas)||1986|
|10.13||Matthew Boling (Strake Jesuit, Houston, Texas)||2019|
*Mark came at altitude in Albuquerque
Boling wasn’t done, however. In his fourth race of the night, Boling overcame a significant deficit to anchor Strake Jesuit to victory in the 4×400 relay with an incredible split of 44.75. Strake Jesuit’s time of 3:10.56 was a new national leader as well (Boling’s leg starts at the 2:23 mark of the video below):
It was quite a day for Boling, who was a major reason why Strake Jesuit finished second in the race for the team title, scoring 40 points to finish as runners up, two points behind Klein Forest. Had it not been for the mishap in the 4×100, Strake Jesuit could well have been state champions.
After the meet, Boling was in high demand. Few professional track athletes could generate the swarm of media that enveloped him yesterday.
— Inside Texas Track (@InsideTxTrack) May 12, 2019
Setting the record straight on Matthew Boling
Boling has been blowing up on social media this spring, and you’ve probably seen a ton of misleading clickbaity headlines comparing the sprinter known as “White Lightning” to Usain Bolt. Perhaps it’s not a surprise; Bolt is the only sprinter that the mainstream media has heard of, so naturally he’s the measuring stick they want to use anytime anyone else runs fast, even if it’s painfully unfair to compare a high school senior to the greatest sprinter in the history of the world.
So let’s lay down some facts and have a realistic discussion about what Boling has achieved and where he can go from here.
1) Yes, Matthew Boling is white. Get used to it.
Let’s be honest: one of the reasons Boling has been blowing up is because most people aren’t used to seeing a white sprinter dominate in track & field.
Just watch this clip from ESPN’s High Noon after Boling’s exploits at the Texas Relays. Bomani Jones can barely contain himself, rubbing his hands with glee before springing the secret of Boling’s ethnicity on co-host Pablo S. Torre.
“I see you, young Collinsworth,” Jones says. “…Humble those boys! Humble them! Humble them! Make them explain what happened to their friends.”
You think Jones would be going ga-ga over a high school track meet in March if Boling were black? No way.
That’s not to say that Boling hasn’t earned the attention. He’s an incredible athlete, period. But if Boling were black, the hype wouldn’t be nearly as great, and you probably wouldn’t be reading this article right now.
2) No, Boling is not nearly as good as Usain Bolt was in his prime…
Boling ran a wind-aided 9.98 in the 100 on April 27, which some sites took as an excuse to start the Bolt comparisons.
9.98 would have placed 7th in the 2016 Olympic final!
9.98 is only .40 off Usain Bolt’s WORLD RECORD!
It’s not just people on the internet, either. Last week, a friend asked me if I had heard about this white kid from Texas who was almost as good as Usain Bolt.
Obviously these comparisons are ridiculous. Four-tenths of a second is A LOT in the 100 meters — it’s basically the difference between the world record (9.58) and the US high school record (10.00). But Boling’s 9.98 came with a massive 4.2 m/s tailwind, which makes it worth 10.16 in still conditions. Still extremely fast, but not remotely Bolt-like. In fact, when you adjust for wind, that 9.98 was only slightly better than the 10.13 he ran at the Texas state meet on Saturday, which came with a 1.3 tailwind and was worth 10.19 in still conditions (again, that’s still remarkably quick for a high schooler but certainly not unheard of).
Of course it’s not fair to compare Boling at 18 to Bolt in his prime. But at age 18, Bolt ran a 19.93 wind-legal 200. Only 54 men in history have run 19.93 or faster. The 54th-fastest wind-legal human at 100 meters has run 9.92.
One other comparison that’s fair to make between Bolt and Boling is that neither started out as 100-meter runners — both started as 200/400 guys. Bolt only began focusing on the 100 at age 21 in 2008, the year he broke the world record and won his first Olympic gold. Likewise, Boling only began running the event this spring as a senior, after focusing on the 200, 400, and long jump earlier in high school (he also high jumped 6-7 as a sophomore). Boling’s 46.15 400 pb ranked him sixth among high schoolers last year.
3) …but he could be the next Grant Holloway
If you’re looking for a better comparison for Boling, it’s current University of Florida star Grant Holloway. Like Boling, Holloway starred in multiple events in high school; as a senior in 2016, he was ranked in the top five nationally in both the 110 hurdles and the long jump. In college, Holloway basically took up the 60-meter dash for fun this year and started dominating in that event (in March, he became just the second man to win the 60 and the 60 hurdles at the same NCAA indoor championships) and picked up the 4×400 relay as well while continuing to excel in the hurdles and long jump.
Holloway, a junior, will almost certainly turn professional after the NCAA championships in June, and Boling, who is set to enroll at the University of Georgia this fall, could be in line to replace him as the next NCAA star as he’ll immediately become one of the best short sprinters and jumpers in the collegiate ranks and, like Holloway, can still help out on the 4×400.
4) Here’s how Boling stacks up against other high schoolers, past & present
100 meters (10.13 sb)
2019 high school rank: #1
All-time high school rank: T-#4
200 meters (20.58 sb)
2019 high school rank: #3
All-time high school rank: not in top 10
Long jump (26-3.5/8.01m)
2019 high school rank: #2
All-time high school rank: #8
4x400m relay (3:10.56)
2019 high school rank: #1
All-time high school rank: not in top 10
5) Boling is a little old for his grade
According to his IAAF profile, Boling turns 19 years old on June 20. Most media reports indicate that he’s still 18, but it’s worth pointing out that his birth date was listed as April 20, 2000, in the entries for last year’s World U20 Championships. Either way, that’s slightly older than your typical high school senior.
For comparison, Trayvon Bromell set the US U20 record of 9.97 seconds to win the 100 at the 2014 NCAA championships. Bromell was 18 years, 338 days old when he ran that time as a freshman at Baylor University. When he ran his 10.13 yesterday, Boling was either 19 years, 21 days old (if he was born on 4/20/00) or 18 years, 325 days (if he was born on 6/20/00).
6) Where does Matthew Boling go from here?
Boling is already one of the fastest US high school sprinters ever, and if he continues to improve, he could one day appear at the Olympics. But the US is also incredibly deep in the 100 meters. Last year, the four fastest men in the world were all Americans; all ran under 9.90 seconds, and the top three — Christian Coleman, Ronnie Baker, and Noah Lyles — are 23, 25, and 21 years old, respectively. If Boling continues on his current trajectory, he could one day challenge those men — his 10.13 automatically qualified him for this year’s USA senior championships in July — but it’s also worth noting that the fastest US high schooler ever, Trentavis Friday, never ran faster than his HS pb. In fact, none of the US high schoolers who have run faster than Boling made even one Olympic or World Championship team as an individual.
Of course, Boling is more than just a 100-meter runner. The truth is, we can speculate all day about what Matthew Boling may or may not do next, but for now, it’s more fun to sit back and let Boling show us.
For more on Boling, check out the LetsRun.com messageboard.
MB: Matthew Boling 4×400 Split 44.74 Includes race video.
MB: Isn’t Matt Boling’s best event the LJ?
MB: Why does everyone keep referring to Matt Boling’s 10.13 as the new national record? It’s the fastest time ever in HS only competition during the regular season.