Hampton grad Matt DeMatteo thrives after narrowing focus to track at Duquesne

Saturday, May 20, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Former Hampton three-sport standout Matt DeMatteo already owns the third-fastest 400-meter hurdle time in Duquesne track and field history.

Imagine what will happen when he figures out what he’s doing.

“I’ve always been a three-sport athlete and never really focused all of my time on track,” DeMatteo said. “So I’m still a little bit raw going over hurdles.”

DeMatteo, who capped his freshman season with a fourth-place finish at the Atlantic 10 Track and Field Championships and a sixth-place finish at the IC4A Championships, is concentrating on track for the first time after shifting from football to basketball to track each year at Hampton.

Assistant coach Brian Reed, who works with Duquesne’s hurdlers, admitted DeMatteo has a long way to go but said practice and improved technique will unleash the full potential of the former Talbot.

“He actually isn’t real good at his hurdling skill yet,” Reed said. “That’s something we are still working on. Once we get his hurdling ability down, he will make a big jump next year.

“He’s a little long over the hurdles. Once he shortens it up and spends less time over the hurdle and stops floating over the hurdle, he will notice a big drop in his time.”

At Hampton, track was purely a spring sport for DeMatteo, who was busy earning all-conference honors in football and all-section honors in basketball. He also excelled on the track, taking second in the WPIAL in the 300 hurdles in 2022 and placing in the top 10 twice at the PIAA championships.

“I think the other sports made him tough as an athlete,” Reed said. “Now he only has one sport to focus on. He has that toughness behind him and is able to work on just track. I think that helps him tremendously.”

When DeMatteo decided to run track in college, it came with the expectation that rapid improvement would be likely as he dedicated himself to one sport. He competed this past winter in indoor track for the first time, but 400 hurdles isn’t an indoor event, so DeMatteo focused on the 60-meter dash, the 200 and the open 400.

When he showed up for spring practices at Duquesne outdoor track, DeMatteo said he “literally had not touched a hurdle all winter.”

That didn’t stop him from posting a time of 54.50 in the 400 hurdles at the season-opening Charlotte 49er Classic in mid-March. That was good enough for the third-fastest time in program history.

“Honestly, I kind of surprised myself,” he said. “I hoped I could break 55 (seconds) because I’d never run it before. … I didn’t really have a target time until I realized what I could do.”

DeMatteo also competed in the 100-meter dash, the 200 and the 400 and 1,600 relays for the Dukes.

The top moments of his freshman season came during a seven-day span in May. The 5-foot-11, 162-pound DeMatteo placed fourth in the 400 hurdles at the A-10 Track and Field Championships May 6-7 at UMass and followed that with a sixth-place finish at the IC4A championships May 12-14 at George Mason.

He matched or surpassed his personal-best time in each of his final four races, culminating with a 53.61 in the finals of the IC4A, which is one of the oldest annual track meets in the U.S. and attracts athletes from New England and the Mid-Atlantic.

DeMatteo figures to move up the leaderboard next season. The three runners who placed ahead of him at this year’s A-10 championships were a pair of seniors and a junior.

“It was great for a freshman,” Reed said. “He will be right at the top next year.”

DeMatteo also has his sights on the program’s record book. The only two faster 400 hurdlers in Duquesne history are Kyle Trinch (52.10, 2016) and Preston Hogue (53.24, 2018).

“I definitely want to set the school record,” DeMatteo said, “but more importantly, winning the A-10 and helping the team is the No. 1 goal.”

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