WESTFIELD, NJ — After coming in third place in last week’s sectional race and leading his team to the championship, Westfield High School boys cross country captain Matt Meusel is flying high.

This week’s Ron Bansky and Associates Allstate Westfield Athlete of the Week finished the race with an impressive 15:54 time.

“The key to Matt’s success this season is his consistency,” head coach Christopher Tafelski said.  “If you want to perform well at the state level, you have to be willing to work hard every day over the course of weeks, months, seasons, years. You have to be willing to take risks and learn from your failures and setbacks. Matt has had his share of both, and he doesn’t make any apologies for them — they’re what have gotten him to this point.”

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For Meusel, challenges and setbacks are just an inevitable part of the process. An injury earlier on this year only increased his motivation to succeed.

“My injury happened back in April and I really didn’t start running again till early August,” he said. “I felt really out of shape but I pushed through and came back stronger than ever. I knew that this was my last year as a Blue Devil and I didn’t want to let the opportunity get away from me.”

Meusel’s determination and hard work set a great example for his teammates, according to his coach.

“He’s not a rah-rah, big speech kind of leader. That kind of flashy leadership isn’t really real, and it’s not what distance runners need,” Tafelski said.

Over his four years as a runner, Meusel’s favorite thing about cross country has been the team spirit, he said.

“The team aspect and the energy that you get from having the whole team there cheering for you at every race, people all dressed up and painted, it’s really special to have that support when racing,” he said.

Outside of running, Meusel enjoys hanging out with his friends and writing for the school newspaper, Hi’s Eye.

“It feels great to be recognized like this, especially because there are so many great things going on for Westfield fall sports right now,” Meusel said. “Our goal as a team is to keep giving everything we have and if we continue doing what we have been doing in races, we will be successful.”

Both Meusel and coach Tafelski have high hopes leading into the last two state meets of this season.

“Unlike a lot of other sports, in a cross country race we can’t control what our opponents do. But we can keep calm in the craziness of the race and stick to our plan.  If we do that we should do very well,” Tafelski said.

The boys will compete in the Group 4 Championship race this Saturday, Nov. 11.

Daniel Sokolin is a student at Westfield High School participating in  journalism program with TAPinto Westfield.