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The Day's All-Area Boys' Indoor Track Athlete of the Year: East Lyme's Tommy Matlock

Apr. 25—Tommy Matlock used to dress up in his dad's Connecticut State Police uniform, hoping to someday emulate him.

The thing that he really ended up taking from Jim Matlock, however, from his days following him everywhere, was Jim's love for track and field. Jim would compete in masters-level meets. Tommy would tag along.

"I was like 8 or 9. I would go to his meets and everything. He would always be at the track or somewhere," Tommy Matlock, a junior at East Lyme High School, was saying recently. "I got intrigued by the whole thing."

Matlock, who finished the indoor track season as the eighth-ranked shot putter in the nation with a toss of 63 feet, 0.25 inches, was named The Day's 2024 All-Area Boys' Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year.

Matlock set meet records at the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I (60-9.75) and Class M (63-0.25) championships, while going on to win the State Open (61-8) and New England (62-0) titles, his personal best nearly 10 feet greater than last winter's top mark. He was 20th at the Nike Indoor Nationals in New York with a throw of 56-6.25.

And the college recruiters have been calling, everywhere from Southern Cal, Virginia, Nebraska, Mississippi State and Kentucky to URI — "I've talked to schools from coast to coast," he said.

Matlock was a fifth-grader when he began working with coach Carl Reichard, the longtime East Lyme High girls' track coach and throwing specialist. Reichard, a retired chemistry teacher, was in school one day when Matlock's mother Kim — a former student of Reichard's who worked at the high school — poked her head in to find out if he knew anyone who could coach her son.

Kim calls Reichard, the 2014 National High School Athletic Coaches' Association Coach of the Year in girls' track, "the throwing whisperer."

"I think I owe him pretty much everything I know," Matlock said of Reichard. "I don't know, he was my first real coach ever. We stay after practice or I get there early. I really owe it all to him.

"You'll never see him angry at anybody for anything. He's very laid back, not aggressive coaching. He teaches me something, makes sure I understand he believes this will help because of this reason. I actually threw with him this morning."

Reichard calls Matlock's praise an exaggeration, crediting the student himself for the strides he's made as a thrower. He said it might be an overused word, but Matlock has a passion for track that carries him as he works to keep pushing his boundaries forward.

"He loves it and he follows it," Reichard said. "The good thing about the digital world is a 10th grader (in Missouri) just threw 72 feet. Tom knew it today and it just happened yesterday. He knows what a lot of people are doing. It's very gratifying to see somebody that's excited about the sport and having success.

"... It's a team. With a good coach-athlete relationship, there's a lot of give and take, a lot of discussion. He has to put the work in. If he doesn't do it, we're not going to be successful."

Matlock, who is 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, also plays fullback and linebacker for the East Lyme football team, originally convinced he wanted to play football in college. Last year's outdoor track season, when he won the State Open shot put title at 55-4.5, convinced him otherwise.

Matlock also has personal bests of 149-0 in the discus, set earlier this month after the start of the outdoor season, and 136-11 in the hammer. He was 10th last year in the CIAC hammer state championship, an event not contested during the regular season, with a mark of 130-9.

He said his greatest growth in the sport has been mentally.

"It's one of the biggest aspects," he said. "You're the only one that makes the mistake. It is easy to get in your head. You have to control that. Relax and throw. Just clear your head and throw. I've done it a million times.

"If you're just having a bad day or something's a little off ... I'll have frustrating days of practice, but it's just one day."

Among Matlock's family members, grandfather Lloyd Johnson was an elementary school principal and lifelong educator, while mother Kim was also in education and Jim retired following 27 years as a police officer.

Tommy hopes to major in sports medicine or athletic training, but hasn't steered completely away from public service. He's involved in East Lyme's Peers Reaching Out program and participates in Best Buddies, an initiative which pairs students with intellectual disabilities with a "buddy" in a one-on-one setting.

He is also set to receive a CABE Student Leadership Award from the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education.

"I like our town. I really appreciate all the support everyone gives me; even people from other towns are very supportive," Matlock said.

"It's going good. I had my first meet (earlier this spring season) in the pouring rain. I still did pretty good, 59 feet and some change. It was downpouring. You just adjust, maybe slow down a little bit.

"This was my best season so far (indoors). I was really happy with it. I would have liked to end it a little more (than the 20th at nationals). But I had such a good season. I couldn't look at it as a negative."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

The Day's 2024 All-Area Boys' Indoor Track and Field Team

Player of the Year — Tommy Matlock (East Lyme)

55-meter dash — Aidan Patterson (East Lyme)

300 — Kenyon Morrissette (Lyman Memorial)

600 — Kyle Kornacki (NFA)

1,000 — Ryan Dunning (Fitch)

1,600, 3,200 — Sean McCauley (East Lyme)

55 hurdles — Elliot Childs (Waterford)

4x200 relay — Ledyard (Jamel Kearse Jr., Roan Fothergill, Luca Viviano, Mateo Viviano)

4x400 relay — Fitch (Evan Vitagliano, Amill Houston, Ryan Dunning, Porter Carter)

4x800 relay — East Lyme (Jilali Benjdid, Maddox Grillo-Smith, Sam Leone, Kai Ritz)

Sprint medley relay — NFA (Conor Gaughan, Oliver Aubin, Kyle Kornacki, Jesse Croteau)

High jump — Christian Wiltshire (Ledyard), Mason Leak (Bacon Academy)

Pole vault — Mateo Viviano (Ledyard)

Long jump — Zayshawn Griffin (Fitch)

Shot put — Chris Amy (NFA)

Utility — Colin Britner (St. Bernard), Patrick Croughwell (NFA), Finian Gates (East Lyme)