WESTFIELD, NJ — Ever since middle school, when he began running for the Westfield Area Y, Westfield TAP Athlete of the Week Matt Luppino's enthusiasm for the sport has continued to grow.

“I got a lot of satisfaction from running. This was, and is, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Luppino, “Even when your body is on the brink of collapse, you need to finish the run.”

“As the former Westfield coach Jack Martin would say, it is all about mental toughness through physical pain. The fact that I could do it made me want to keep doing it, and as I kept training, I raced faster and faster,” said Luppino.

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The Westfield High School senior recently signed an institutional letter of intent with Duke University to run cross country next year. Over the past four years at WHS, Luppino has contributed to the success of both the cross country and track team.

“One of the things that has brought Matt to where he is now is that he had a level of intensity to his training in ninth and tenth grade that is rare for kids that age,” said WHS Cross Country and Track Coach Christopher Tafelski. “I think that extra fire brought him to a high level of performance earlier in his career than most.  It's that level of intensity that rubs off on the other kids and makes them better."

According to Luppino, one of the largest misconceptions about the sport is the training commitment. The training starts in June, in order to prepare for a big meet in November.

“It’s a year-round sport,” said Luppino. “We want to be our best during our most competitive races, and we can’t do that without putting the work in all year long.”

Cross country is also a true team sport, Luppino said.

“Other athletes may not realize how tough our sport is, but we do,” he said. “We are truly a family. We are all good friends outside of practice and on race day, no one is louder than the Westfield cross country team cheering on their teammates. The camaraderie is astounding.”

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to run for Duke next year. They are a top program in the country looking to win,” said Luppino. “I look forward to continue to compete at the top level. Once a Blue Devil, always a Blue Devil.”