Forest Park High rising junior Bria Matthews won the triple jump at the AAU Junior Olympics in Detroit while placing fourth in the long jump event. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone).
FOREST PARK — Bria Matthews had a very successful spring as a jumper on Forest Park’s track and field team last season.
But her summer has taken her track and field career to another level.
Matthews, who will be a junior at Forest Park High this year, competed extensively in summer meets as a member of the Mark Trails Flying Tigers track team based out of Decatur. But it was her national success that is bringing more attention to Matthews’ skills.
Matthews took home first place in the triple jump and fourth in the long jump at the AAU Junior Olympics in Detroit, Mich., two weeks ago, and placed second in both the triple and long jump at the USA Junior Olympics in Greensboro, N.C., also in July.
In the process, she bested her personal record of 39 feet, eight inches in the triple jump by just a hair, while winning in the Detroit meet where over 10,000 young athletes competed.
Yet, she still isn’t completely satisfied.
“My jumps haven’t really improved all that much,” Matthews said. “I only broke my personal record in the triple jump, and that just by one inch. I still need to train more, do more strengthening stuff and exercises that help improve my technique.”
Talk with her father, Dexter Matthews, however, and you’ll hear an appreciation for the work his oldest daughter has already done.
“It feels really great to see her being able to go all these places and do so well,” Dexter Matthews said. “We went a lot of places this summer and she pretty much placed second everywhere we went. It feels good to see all of her hard work paying off.”
Bria Matthews’ old personal record was already longer than anything that’s in the Clayton County meet record books. She truly began to emerge last season as a sophomore, leading her coach Art Williams to call her an “elite” athlete. And the summer has seemingly only backed up Williams’ talk.
It was a summer that also allowed Bria Matthews to meet some of the best stars in track and field history. She even got to take pictures with legendary track star Jackie Joyner Kersee.
Now that Matthews has received a taste of national success, she can’t help but to allow it to whet her appetite for more. She’s not cocky, but she admits that achieving on the national level is a bit of a bigger deal than what she’s done back home.
“It was fun to win and do as well as I did in Detroit and North Carolina,” she said. “It felt better than winning the local meets. More competition. And depending on where we were, there were a lot of jumpers who jump further than the ones here locally.”
The success doesn’t change her approach, however. With school starting back in Clayton County on Monday, she said she was looking forward to seeing people she hadn’t seen all summer and getting back into the flow of competing locally once again.
“I guess I didn’t really think about it all that much,” she said. “I guess everything that happened boosted my confidence up a little bit. But I know I still have more to do to improve.”