By Doug Gorman
Riverdale High School senior Samentria Matthews has one major goal left before graduating?she wants to help the Lady Raiders repeat as the Class AAAAA state track and field championships in the spring.
Then Matthews can begin focusing on the next phase of her athletic career ? competing in track and field at the college level.
Matthews took the first step towards a college track career Monday afternoon when she signed a track and field scholarship to Troy University.
The Riverdale senior has participated in a variety of events for the Lady Raiders, including the 100 and 200-yard dashes, the 4x100 and the 4x400, as well as the long jump.
In college, Matthews expects to run in the 100 and 200, and perhaps on one of the team's relay teams.
Matthews is excited about the opportunity to join the Division I track program located in Alabama.
"I just liked the environment, and the people were really nice," she said.
Riverdale track and field coach Adam Phyall was glad to see Matthews sign her letter of intent early.
"It takes a lot of pressure off her," he said. "A lot of times you have athletes going into the season still trying to decide and they press too hard."
Phyall said he expects Matthews to have a great senior year.
"She has shown today that she is a great senior leader," he said.
Matthews began running track when she was just nine as a member of the amateur Running Panthers program.
Victoria Robinson, Matthews' mother was one of the her daughters' early track and field coaches.
"I am very excited," she said. "I am very proud of her, this has been a long journey."
Getting her track career started with the Running Panthers was a valuable experience for Matthews.
"It helped me work on things and improve on my times," she said.
George Stephens, one of the Running Panthers' coaches, said athletes such as Matthews can serve as a role model for younger athletes.
"We have kids 9 to 18 and she can help set an example about what can happen with hard work," Stephens said.