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Polk’s Darden signs to run track at Lees-McRae College

Published 4:33pm Wednesday, March 19, 2014



His great running speed is taking Polk County High School’s Matt Darden to Lees-McRae College on a track scholarship. Darden make it official on March 17, when he signed his letter of intent to run track at the college, located in Banner Elk.

Darden was already a junior at PCHS when then head football coach Bruce Ollis recommended that the young man join the track team to help train for football. Maybe Ollis recognized that Darden’s blazing speed could also help track coach Alan Peoples’ program.

“I hadn’t thought about track before,” Darden said, though once he began competing, he realized he had a gift. His mother, Anna Darden-Worthington, already recognized that speed.

“He runs like he’s mad at the grass,” she said.

It didn’t take Peoples and his assistants long to notice either.

“Matthew had more talent than we thought he did,” said Peoples.

Darden became a star sprinter last year, competing in the 100, 200, 300, 400 individual events and the 4×100, 4×200 and 4×400 relays, plus the long jump.

It didn’t take long for college officials to find him. Darden said Lees-McRae staff contacted him several months ago, indicating their interest in him, and noting that Lees-McRae’s track program is rebuilding.

How does it feel to know he’ll be a college sprinter?

“A lot of pressure lifted off my shoulders, to know where I’m going,” Darden said.

It doesn’t hurt that Lees-McRae has “a beautiful campus,” according to Darden.

Lees-McRae also has a coach named DeRico Tilley, who was ranked the sixth-fasted man in the world in 2003 and was a one-time member of Team USA.

Darden said Lees-McRae track staff will individualize each team members’ training. To further tweak his ability, Darden will attend the Parisi Speed School near Fletcher to improve his sprinting technique. He said he knows he currently possesses more speed than technique, and says he is willing to work hard to improve.

At Lees-McRae, Darden, who has compiled a 3.4 GPA at Polk, will major in business administration.

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