BY TJ GARCIA | SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR
UTRGV sprinter Yariel Matute won a gold medal and set a personal record in the men’s 200-meter at the Central American Championships in Nicaragua.
Matute — who is a La Joya Juarez-Lincoln alumnus — posted a legal, wind-aided time of 21.16 seconds during the Sunday afternoon race that gives him a chance to compete in the prestigious Pan American Games in Peru later this summer, and perhaps even a shot at representing Honduras in the Olympics.
But when he was interviewed Monday on his way to Texas from Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, Matute was simply elated with his Central American win.
“I’m a kid out of Juarez-Lincoln, a kid from UTRGV, and I take so much pride in that everywhere I go,” said Matute, whose mother is from Honduras. “I love to represent the Valley, UTRGV, Honduras. I know a lot of people are watching. I have a lot of support in the Valley and Honduras, and it makes me happy that I could win gold.”
Matute said when he crossed the finish line, he almost couldn’t believe that he had won. The 200-meter final was incredibly close as the second-place sprinter came in .07 seconds (21.23) behind Matute and the third-place finisher posted a time of 21.45 seconds. All runners finished in the 21-second window. The Central American Championships included countries such as Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala and Belize among others.
Matute, who is an incoming red-shirt senior at UTRGV, said he and his college coaches had hoped he could break the 21-second mark. However, he did run a personal best, and his 21.16 second time would have been good enough to nearly win at the WAC Track & Field Championships and likely advance him to the NCAA regionals. Times under 21 seconds there placed among the top 25 finishers.
“I wanted, and (UTRGV Coach Darren Flowers) also wanted me to break 21 seconds because that has been my goal,” Matute said. “But taking into consideration the travel, the change of environment, the amount of back-to-back events after getting there the day before was kind of tough. I’m happy with the result. I’m happy with winning. The time will come down soon.”
The 6-foot, 180-pound sprinter ran prelims for the 200-meter dash and competed in the 4×100 meter relay Saturday. The next day, he ran the 400-meter final at 9:30 a.m., where he finished sixth, before finally getting to the 200-meter final after lunch.
Matute will return home for the time being and wait on word from Honduran officials if he will be sent to Peru for the Pan American Games, which is an Olympic-styled competition with dozens of summer indoor and outdoor sports competitions for countries in the Americas.