KINGSTON, R.I. – Stop by the Mackal Fieldhouse and you'll see any number of people running around the track. Odds are, a world-class athlete is among the crowd, working toward an Olympic dream.
For several years, the Mackal track has been a significant resource for former URI track & field team member Matt Pelletier '02, who will be competing at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Pelletier, 36, qualified for the Olympic trials in February of 2015 while he was honeymooning with his new bride in Iceland.
"I woke up the morning of the race and the weather was decent in terms of weather in Iceland," Pelletier said. "By the 10-mile mark I noticed my pace and time was good, and I probably would have a shot at qualifying if I kept this pace up, and I did."
This is Pelletier's second time qualifying for the trials. He also qualified for the 2008 trials, and he narrowly missed the field in 2004 by two minutes. This time around, he qualified following a three-year hiatus while recovering from an injured meniscus.
Though he spent significant time training in Mackal in preparation for this weekend, the facility wasn't always a place Pelletier shined.
"I just wasn't built to be a track athlete," Pelletier said, looking back on a track
career for URI in which he never recorded a point. "I still don't like running on a
track because I am not built for the short distances and quick bursts of speed.
"Road races and long distance runs are the best thing for me."
That is an understatement. Nearly two decades removed from his collegiate running
days, Pelletier is the state's premiere marathoner. Pelletier says URI men's track &
field head coach John Copeland – who was a very good hurdler back in his own track
days – taught him a lot in how to be an efficient runner.
"Copeland was a teacher; he helped me to perfect my form and the art of running,
making it almost second nature to me," Pelletier said. "You can hide the flaws in
some events, but in the long distances you have to be efficient in your stride and
pace, and that is what Copeland preached to me."
To follow Pelletier and his efforts qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, log
onto LAtrials2016.com for results. The race will also be streamed on NBC Live Extra.
The race gets underway at 1 p.m. EST