Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Q & A with Spider...Matt Llano

Matt Llano (left) shown on his way to winning the 2008 Navy XC Invitational and (below) the day before the 2008 NCAA Cross Country Championships in Indiana.
Matt Llano (Broadneck HS, Maryland) is a distance running ace on the Spiders track and field and cross country teams... Last year Llano qualified for the NCAA Cross Country Championships as an individual by placing 7th at the NCAA Southeast Cross Country Championships. He was also named to the NCAA Academic All-American Team for cross country…Last spring Llano redshirted during the outdoor track & field season. He continued training and competing during his redshirt season and won the 3K at the Duke Invitational and returned 2 weeks later to run 29:06.89 in the 10K at the 2009 Mt. SAC Relays in Los Angeles… This past fall Llano and teammates Andrew Benford (13th at the 2009 IAAF World Mountain Running Championships) and Jon Wilson redshirted providing them with an opportunity to return for a season of eligibility next year. During the fall semester Llano took advantage of the opportunity to gain fitness, strength and stamina by racing several high profile road races in the eastern US…In September Llano won the 34th Annapolis 10 Miler setting a course record time (49:38) over a field of nearly 5,500 runners. He won the race by nearly 5 minutes…A few weeks later he placed 4th in the Great Cow Harbor 10K race in NY. His time was 29:48 over the hilly streets of Northport…As he progressed through the fall he and teammate Benford set 3K PR’s of 8:10 in a time-trial before the HCA 8K race in Richmond. On November 14th he placed 6th in the HCA 8K with a time of 23:25 for the roughly 5 mile event. He was the top USA finisher in the race averaging 4:41 per mile.

We sat down to ask him a few questions about his experiences and future plans...

: Since this was posted Matt had a great set of races at the 2010 Atlantic 10 Conference Indoor T&F Championships. He was brilliant in the 5K and took the title. After a very slow 4:57 opening mile of the 5K the pace quickened to a 4:42 on the 2nd mile. From there Llano and 2 other athletes separated from the field making it a 3 man race for the title. Llano took the lead with 800M to go, covering the final mile in 4:23...

Llano’s 5K splits (2/19/20100 at URI): 37.1/37.6/35.8/36.7=2:28.0 at 800M/36.5/37.8/37.2/37.3=4:57.6 at 1600M/37.2/36.0/35.1/34.7/34.4/35.5/34.5/35.5=9:39.0 at 3200M/32.5/32.9/33.6/33.4/33.3/34.6/33.2/32.1=14:04 at 3 miles/31.2 for last 200M=14:37.32 (4:23 for the final 1600M)

He returned the next day to face a great field in the 3K... Again, another slow start in the 3K of 35.5/37.2/36.2/34.8 (2:23.7 at 800M) turned around quickly as Llano took the lead and started clicking off 32 second laps. Llano took the lead and started clicking off 32 second laps. Only one athlete covered his asserted effort. He covered the final mile in just under 4:20 and led until the final lap when he was passed. He finished 2nd in 8:22 to also break the old meet record of 8:25.98 set by Mark Vilardo of West Virginia University set in 1995.

Llano’s 3K splits (2/20/2010 at URI): 35.5/37.2/36.2/34.8/33.4/32.8/31.9/32.1/32.5/33.1/33.3/33.4/32.9/31.4/31.5 = 8:22.3 for 3K

Question: You qualified for the NCAA Championships last fall (2008) in cross country and then redshirted the outdoor track & field season while running 29:06 for 10K. This fall you ran great races on the roads that culminated with you finishing as the top USA runner at the HCA 8K where you ran 23:25. How did you prepare differently for the road races and what goals did you achieve during those redshirt seasons?

Llano: The biggest difference between my redshirt and regular seasons was that I was much more relaxed when I was redshirting. I didn’t feel the pressure of having to compete at such a level as to qualify me for a national meet, and ironically, I think this sense of calm propelled me to achieve more than I ever have before. I was able to really listen to what my body was telling me and to adapt workouts slightly without being overly concerned about having a race right around the corner. My level of training soared as a result.

During the 2009 outdoor season, I was able to substantially lower my 10K personal best by 72 seconds, which made me incredibly confident that I was ready to compete at the next level, and that success continued throughout the fall season in my road races. My main focus was to try to develop alternate approaches to races that would enable me to be more relaxed going into them, because overanalyzing has definitely been my downfall several times in the past.
Question: Why did you and your teammates Andrew Benford and Jon Wilson redshirt this cross country season?

Llano: Andrew (Benford), Jonny (Wilson), and I actually decided separately that we wanted to redshirt, and when one of us brought it up on a run one day, we all burst with excitement that we all wanted to do it. Running is our passion, and we recognized the potential that our program has for next year, leading us to make the decision. We have big goals for 2010 and really hope and plan on putting Richmond on the national running scene. We know that we have the talent and determination to get there, and with an extra year under our belts, we can really make an impact and want to see the team achieve great things.

Question: As an older, more experienced runner, what do you tell your younger teammates to help prepare them for college athletics and adjust to a new training system?

Llano: I really try to convey the importance of communication with your teammates and coaches. Having that whole web of trust and support is an integral part of achieving success at the highest level.

Question: Have you decided what you will do once you graduate?

Llano: I would like to continue running and hopefully I’ll be offered a professional contract shortly after graduating. I will most likely eventually attend graduate school, but I am going to focus on running for now and see where it takes me.

Question: What has been your most memorable experience either in cross country or track at Richmond?

Llano: In cross country, my most memorable experience is definitely the 2008 NCAA championship meet. Although I did not perform as well as I wanted to, it has definitely helped to motivate me in my training and has enabled me to elevate myself to a higher level over the past year. In track, the 2009 Mt. SAC Relays race where I ran 29:06 is the most memorable experience. During the pre-race run the day before the race, I said to my teammate Tim Quinn, “I’m going to run 29:07 tomorrow.” I now believe I was in better shape than that, but doubted and therefore limited myself at the time. From that race, I learned that my body is capable of a lot more than my mind probably wants to think.

Question: Has there been a specific season that stands out in your mind as the “best”?

Llano: I think each season just keeps getting better and better as I move through my career at Richmond. The one that has been the “best” so far for me was this past fall when I redshirted. I am more confident than ever and I have made incredible jumps in my training over the past few months. I’m really excited for what the rest of this year will bring and for what I’ll be able to accomplish on the track.

Question: Has Richmond been what you expected it would be when you entered as a first-year student-athlete? If so, why or why not?

Llano: I wasn’t sure what to expect out of college in general or out of Richmond specifically, but what I have experienced has been nothing short of amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better team, coach, group of friends, or school. I wouldn’t trade what I have at Richmond for anything else.


  1. Very interesting article, Matt! Good luck for the indoors at Newport this weekend and then moving right on to outdoors. Can't wait until next year when everything comes together. Gail B.

  2. Matt, you da' bomb!! Keep up the stellar work man! :)
    James Stevenson