Jablonski Runs Himself Into National Esteem

Matt Jablonski's final year of track and field is off to a flying start, as the incomparable Loyola/Blakefield senior takes aim at another MIAA championship.

Jablonski won the 1,600-meter race during last week's Pikesville Track Classic in 4:19:90, two seconds faster than Ryan Spangler of Winters Mill. Jablonski will graduate in June as one of the most-decorated local distance runners ever.

Jablonski enters an elite group of area stars of the past, such as Kenwood's Dave Patrick and Mike Sheely, state championship runners at Kenwood in the 1960s and '70s; Andy Passmore and the Cornwell brothers (Scott, Gary, Dave and John) of Hereford; Jeff Campbell, who won three-straight state public school titles at Randallstown; Matt Centrowitz, who also won three at Broadneck; and Andrew Revelle of Atholton.

He is also one of just four private school distance runners to win at least two MIAA Cross Country championships. Last November at Oregon Ridge he won his second-straight conference title by outrunning Punya Kikande of Glenelg Country School, to join Tristram Thomas of McDonogh, Zach Sullivan of Archbishop Spalding and Chris Wright of Mount St. Joseph as double MIAA winners. Thomas won three from 2002-04.

Jablonski's record-setting run last November of 15:11 also smashed Sullivan's MIAA record of 15:48 and led the Dons to their second-straight team title. Kevin Corbusier, Hank Wiedefeld, Matt Lazzati and Pat Finley followed Jablonski to the finish line and gave Loyola coaches Jose Albornoz and Chris Cucuzella their fourth conference championship in the past six years and 10th overall.

That record run set the table for two more huge races in the fall that earned Jablonski even more respect nationally.

At the Nike Cross Country regional meet in Cary, N.C., he finished second to Armando Del Valle of Miami Columbus Hellion High, who won the race in 15:11, beating Jablonski by four seconds. The second-place finish earned Jablonski a trip to Oregon and the Nike Nationals, where he finished 30th out of 199 runners in a time of 5:26.7. It was the best finish for a local runner in the boys' nationals since Broadneck's Centrowitz finished eighth in the Foot Locker National Cross Country championships in 2006.

Jablonski will join Centrowitz this fall at the University of Oregon, where they will both run for legendary coach Vin Lananna. Centrowitz, whose dad, Matt Sr., also ran at Oregon, has blossomed into one of the nation's premier collegiate distance runners. He has won two straight Pac-10 championships in the 1,500-meters and earned All-American status last November after finishing 10th in the NCAA Cross Country championships.

Jablonski's arrival in Eugene will have to wait until he puts the finishing touches on a tremendous career at Loyola during the next six weeks. In addition to winning back-to-back MIAA Cross Country championships, he was the 800-, 1600- and 3200-meter winner during last spring's conference championships in track.

This past winter he qualified for the prestigious Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden in New York. He competed in the high school mile, finishing second to Chad Noelle of Greene High School in upstate New York. Noelle ran the mile in 4:16.71, Jablonski in 4:16:88. It was one of the highlights of the meet and one of the greatest high school mile runs ever.

Add to that outdoor championships in the 1,600 meters as a sophomore in May 2009 and Jablonski's place on the short list of best local distance runners in history has been well earned.

Posted April 5, 2011