If you’re a runner, world-renowned podiatrist Dr. John Connors is not a guy you want to meet. If you find yourself inside Connors’ Little Silver office, chances are you’re injured and looking to Connors for help.
Unfortunately for Barnegat senior harrier Matt Nelson, Connors’ office is exactly where he found himself last spring after he shut down his outdoor track season after The Penn Relays, where he ran 8:53.20 to finish 20th in the 3,000.
Nelson knew he was in trouble during that race and as he put it, “something didn’t feel right.” That something turned out to be a sore achilles.
“I knew I had to shut it down after Penn, I felt the achilles during that race and knew it was going to be a problem,” Nelson said. “I waited six weeks after Penn and then saw Dr. Connors. He got me some treatment and after two weeks, I was running again and trying to get ready for this fall.”
Nelson slowly started up again, got a base going and began practicing with his teammates in August in anticipation of what he hopes is a successful cross country season. However, between Penn and now hasn’t been a good time for Nelson.
Nelson is not only a racer, but a competitor as well. He has made a high school career out of big races in big spots when he was certainly not the favorite in some cases. With that said, sitting idly by unable to run is not something Nelson ever got used to.
“It’s the worst, I saw all these kids running and mentally, you still think you can go out there and do what they’re doing,” Nelson said. “Thinking you can still do it but knowing physically that you can’t was the hardest part. The whole experience has given me a new sense of motivation for this year.”
Nelson had been slated to open his season on Tuesday at Ocean County Park in a dual meet against Point Boro, but the meet was postponed due to a tornado warning in Ocean County. The dual meet has not been rescheduled as of yet, but Nelson says that will be the only dual meet he runs as he looks to stay fit for championship season.
Nelson is the defending Ocean County, NJSIAA South Jersey Group II and Group II champion. Aside from the Meet of Champions, where Nelson finished 11th in 15:58 on the vaunted state championship course at Holmdel Park, he says he wants to improve on a fifth-place Shore Conference finish.
“That Shore Conference meet was not what I wanted, so I’m really looking to go out there and prove myself this time around,” Nelson said. “Aside from that, I really want to be a top finisher in the state.”
Last indoor season before the injury, Nelson went as fast as 4:19.41 for 1,600 and 9:14.32 for 3,200. Those two marks are indoor personal bests, while he has gone as fast as 4:20.70 and 9:22.93, respectively, outdoors.