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Georgia sprinter Matthew Boling turns pro, remains on fast track since prep performance went viral
His time or place didn't matter in this particular competition. It was just sprinter Matthew Boling against the posted speed limit sign on a quiet street.
For fun, he wanted to see if he could equal — or eclipse — the sign's motion-triggered readout in the 25 mph zone. On his fourth attempt, he dashed by and the yellow number lit up with "26."
The Georgia standout who announced Tuesday he was turning professional has been zipping toward success since he burst on the scene with a performance in high school that went viral. Just over four years ago, Boling made headlines by breaking the 10-second barrier in the 100 meters. Along with it came the inevitable comparisons to Usain Bolt — comparisons that still shadow him but never weigh on him.
"Usain Bolt is the greatest sprinter to ever do this," Boling said. "So I always take (the comparisons) as a compliment. But at the same time, there's only one Matthew Boling and that's who I'm trying to be."
In some ways, it seems like a long time ago since that prep race on April 27, 2019, when he recorded a wind-aided time of 9.98 seconds. It was the fastest all-conditions 100 time recorded by an American high school athlete.
He was lauded on social media and appeared on CNN. Boling, who is from Houston, was named the Gatorade national boys track and field player of the year. He was even up for an ESPY award for best record-breaking performance, which was won by Saints QB Drew Brees.
Out of it, Boling was hailed as track's next biggest sprinter.
Boling went to Georgia, where he became the 2021 NCAA indoor 200-meter champion, set school records and even anchored Kirby Smart's coaches to a 4x100 relay win over the players before a 2019 practice (he was brought in as a ringer). Last spring, Boling earned his degree in marketing.
Over the summer, Boling was named to the American squad for the world championships in Budapest, Hungary, where he was part of two relays that captured gold medals. He ran in the opening round of the men's 4x400 relay — Rai Benjamin & Co. took it from there in the final — and then helped the mixed 4x400 relay to a title.
This just may demonstrate the speed of Boling: Men's 4x400 teammate Trevor Bassitt handed him the baton and began waving goodbye as Boling sped off. Bassitt knew there's no catching Boling with a goal in sight.
The next goal: Training for a spot on the U.S. squad for the Paris Olympics next summer. He's leaving Athens, Georgia, to train in South Carolina with coach Alleyne Francique, who until recently worked with Tokyo Olympics 100-meter silver medalist Fred Kerley.
Boling has range in the sprint game, too, capable of running under 10 seconds in the 100 (9.98, in 2022). Or break 20 in the 200 (19.92 in '22). And he's knocking on the door of eclipsing 45 in the 400 (45.17 in July).
He happens to be a long jumper, too. For that matter, he probably could turn in a solid 5K time, too, considering he's a trail runner in his spare time.
"I don't want to go in with the mindset that I'm only a 100 guy because then I feel like that gets me a little complacent," the 23-year-old said. "But I do really enjoy the longer races."
The 400 is a race that Bolt competed in early in his career before focusing on the 100 and the 200. The Jamaican great still holds the world record in both.
"I like that feeling when you finish (the 400) and you're just tapped out," Boling said. "It makes me feel like I accomplished something special."
His mission on social media is to make track entertaining. Like his speed limit experiment, where he raced down the middle of the street. Or racing someone on a scooter on campus.
"I just try to keep it as fun as I can," he said.
He's got a few more days to unwind before going back to work. Paris is just around the corner and Francique already has promised a demanding workout plan.
"I'm like: 'I'm ready. Give me your hardest stuff and I'm going to give it my all,'" said Boling, who recently purchased an English bulldog puppy he's named Moose. "By the time I'm at (U.S. Olympic) trials in June, I'm going to make sure no stone is left unturned.
"I'm embracing this next step in my journey. I believe this next step is going to get me to where I want to be."