By Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
(18-JUN) -- In 2010, with two years until the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, Matt Scherer had to make a decision that would alter his life for the foreseeable future: hang up the track spikes or give it one more go as a professional athlete. Having not set a personal best at 800m in two years, it would be a tough one for the then 26-year-old to make. He would ultimately chose the latter, except with one significant twist. He would only run as a pacesetter.
"It's gone pretty well since," admits Scherer with a smile, talking exclusively with Race Results Weekly in Greensboro, N.C., last weekend. One week after pacing world record holder David Rudisha through a world leading 800m in New York City, Scherer reflected on the experience as one he'll remember for a while.
Instructed to take Rudisha through 400 meters between 49.0 and 49.5 seconds, Scherer executed his plan to perfection, clocking 49.09 slightly in front of the tall Kenyan. Stepping off the track about 100 meters later, Scherer watched Rudisha finish in 1:41.74, then proceeded to walk through the media mixed zone with a smile on his face.
"I'm always watching the clock to see how guys will finish when I drop out. I've never seen a clock stop on 1:41 before so that was pretty cool," said Scherer. But more importantly, he had successfully made Rudisha happy.
"The pace setter did a good job, he was strong," Rudisha said in his post race press conference.
Training alone in Eugene, Ore., Scherer rarely gets any attention. The 28-year-old is perfectly fine with that; after all, rabbits tend to grab headlines for all of the wrong reasons --taking the pace out too slow, separating from the field too early, cutting off the competitors, etc.
But after the New York meet, Scherer's name began to circulate among fans for good reason: he had flawlessly completed his job.
"I think this kind of got the attention going, it being a record and all," said Scherer, who does not have a sponsor. "It's more a reflection of his [Rudisha's] race that people are talking about me more."
Glancing over message boards and seeing his name mentioned in articles even got the lighthearted Scherer laughing.
"I'm getting referred to as flabby, which is pretty funny," Scherer said with a smirk, not letting the comment get through his thick skin. "Usually, I'm just called really big or even fat or something.
"But really, it is kind of nice to be relevant again. I don't think anybody has talked about me or cared about me for three or four years," continued Scherer, reflecting back to the time when he had to make his big decision.
Now as the Olympic Trials are set to begin, Scherer couldn't be in a better place. With no plans to complete a race any time soon, the former University of Oregon standout will continue to fine tune his pacing skills, something he does without the aid of a split-timing watch.
"What I'm really hoping is Rudisha liked me enough to maybe use me again later in the year. It would be really awesome to try and help him break a world record," Scherer said, letting the excitement creep into his voice.
But for now, Scherer is living in the moment. Asked if pacing was the right decision, and if it has been worth all the hard work, Scherer answers in certainty.
"Well yeah," he laughs. "After all, I haven't done an interview in years so this is kind of special." He pauses and chuckles one more time. "I did one recently by e-mail, and that was the first one in probably at least three years."
Getting serious once again, Scherer describes how being asked to pace meets frequently now is a good sign of things to come. This year, he has paced three of the first six Samsung Diamond League meets.
"I don't do anything that special. Running 50-point isn't hard, it's just doing it consistent all the time," he explains. "I have been fortunate enough to be consistent. In Hengelo [at the FBK-Games] I hit it right on. Last weekend I was told 49.0 and that was what I basically hit, less than a tenth off. I think that is what's catching peoples' eye."
Will Scherer have to again make the retirement decision anytime soon? He doesn't think so.
"I evaluate it every summer whether I want to keep doing it or not. Right now I can see myself doing this, if it continues to go well, four or five more years."