Even after placing eighth in the state as a sophomore, Daniel Maton didn’t consider himself a “cross country guy.”
A two-time track and field state champion last spring, the junior from Camas always viewed that as his main sport.
But that was before he became one of just 40 high school runners nationwide to break 15 minutes in a 5,000-meter race this season.
That was before he dominated the district and bi-district races, leading Camas to team titles in both.
And that was before he came within one step of winning the Class 4A state title Nov. 4 in Pasco.
“After this season, I can actually say I’m good at cross country,” Maton said.
For his accomplishments, Maton is The Columbian’s All-Region boys cross country runner of the year.
Maton loves to run. You sort of have to in order to run 75 miles per week, as he did during this cross country season.
But there are a couple things he likes more than the speed workouts and the longer runs that he calls “head-clearing.”
“I like to win,” he said. “That always satisfies me. I like progression. I like to see improvement.”
This season saw plenty of improvement for Maton.
As a sophomore, he was a consistent top-10 finisher with a personal best of 15:43 at the state meet.
This year, he won six races including the Nike Hole in the Wall XC Invitational, which included 36 teams from Washington and beyond.
He finished seventh in the prestigious Danner Championships at Nike Portland XC, which gathered top high school runners from across the West.
On Oct. 14, he broke the 15 minute barrier by a fraction of a second to win the George Fox Invitational in Newberg, Ore.
As his accomplishments have grown, so has his recognition.
“Usually they didn’t know who I was before this year,” he said. “Now they’re like ‘oh shoot.’ ”
But with that recognition comes more pressure. He remembers a similar effect with his older brother Matthew, who in 2015 became just the sixth U.S. high school runner to break four minutes in the mile.
“It’s a little more nerve-wracking once they know you’re good,” he said.
Maton deals with that pressure by focusing only on what he can control. He rarely looks at social media.
He often dissects his races, looking for any way he could have gone a little faster. That includes this year’s state meet, where Ryan Kline of Central Valley beat him by two-tenths of a second.
“There are a lot of ways I could have run smarter,” he said. “I kicked way too early. I took the lead too early. Especially if I lose a race, I like to look back at what I could have done to win.”
There is likely much more winning in Maton’s future. After this season, he’s not just a cross-country guy.
He’s the man to beat.
The rest of the All-Region team
August Albers, Cedar Tree Classical Christian
Junior placed fourth in the 1B/2B state meet, the top finish ever for three-year-old program.
David Connell, Camas
Senior ran personal best of 15:55 to finish 25th at state and help the Papermakers earn fourth place.
Gabriel Dinnel, Washougal
District runner-up with a personal best of 15:56. Finished 14th in 2A state meet.
Luke Lund, Prairie
Sophomore was the 3A district champ and finished 8th at bi-districts. Personal best of 16:22.
Jackson Lyne, Camas
The junior placed 2nd at district and 8th at the bi-district. Ran personal best of 15:54 this season.
Kyle Radosevich, Ridgefield
Junior placed sixth in 2A state meet, won district title with a personal best of 15:54.