MEDFORD - One of the top performers in the country last fall, Matt Rand (Cape Elizabeth, ME/Cape Elizabeth) returns for his senior season with the Tufts men's cross country team this season. Both Rand and the team have high expectations for 2012 with the new season beginning at the Bates Invitational on September 15.
Making the Jumbo program's first appearance at Nationals since 2007, the 2011 squad earned the program's fifth top-10 finish at the NCAA meet with a ninth-place effort. Leading the way for the Jumbos, Rand placed 19th overall with a 19-second personal-record time of 24:36 to earn All-American honors. Earlier in the season, he had placed third at the NCAA Regional and New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship races.
Also a track All-American at Tufts, Rand is carrying on the long, proud tradition of the Jumbo men's cross country/track & field program currently under the direction of Coach Ethan Barron. GoTuftsJumbos.com caught up with Matt recently and asked him to be our first "In Focus" subject of the 2012-13 year.
What are the team goals and your individual goals for the new season?
MR - Coming into the season as the top-ranked team in the region and sixth nationally, our goals are certainly high. Winning regionals and placing in the top three to five at Nationals are good realistic targets for us. Individually, I would like to improve on my third-place finishes from last year at the conference and regional championships, as well as my 19th place finish at the NCAA Championship.
What type of mindset do you have during a race?
MR - My mindset is the same for all important races. I make sure I am focused and ready to beat as many people as possible. The strategy from race to race varies though. In large races like Open New England's or Nationals, I'll key in on staying with a few guys that I know I should finish near. Other times the strategy is simply to get to the front of the pack and stay there as long as possible. I hardly ever think about my time in cross country races. It's all about place.
What attracted you to Tufts out of Cape Elizabeth, Maine?
MR - My grandfather is a Tufts alum so that's what first sparked my interest in the school. I had a good overnight visit my senior year of high school. I liked the coaches and the whole vibe of the cross country team. I also thought the nickname "Jumbos" was the coolest I had ever heard. The location and academic reputation of Tufts is hard to beat so I applied early decision and certainly haven't regretted it.
What are some of your favorite non-sports related aspects of Tufts?
MR - Honestly, the ice cream sundaes in Dewick every Thursday and Sunday are my favorite non-sports aspect of Tufts. Of the more important things, I love Tufts' proximity to cool places like Davis and Harvard Square, the Fells, the Charles, and obviously downtown Boston. Academically, I'm a history major and have loved the large variety of courses available in that subject, as well as all the unique courses in the experimental college.
I know it's early in your senior year, but what are your plans for the future at this point?
MR - After I graduate, there are a couple road races I would like to run next summer, so I'll train through those if I'm healthy. After that, my competitive running career will most likely end. I'm planning on applying for jobs in the sports management, media, and representation industries.
Rand has earned three All-American honors in his Tufts running career overall. Last winter, he anchored the Jumbo distance medley relay which included teammates Bobby McShane (Mansfield, MA), Graham Beutler (Weston, CT), and senior Connor Rose (Irvine, CA). During the 2011 outdoor track season, Rand earned All-American honors with a sixth-place finish in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Div. III Championships.
If everything goes as planned, Rand will add more national achievements to his resume this year while helping the Tufts cross country and track & field teams continue to move up the national ladder.