July 29, 2020

After Displaying Blazing Form at Track Camp, PHS Grad Perello Primed to Start Bucknell Career

FULL SPEED AHEAD: Matt Perello sprints to the finish line in a race at the Princeton Recreation Department’s high school track camp held at the Princeton High track earlier this month. After his senior season for PHS track was canceled this spring due to COVID-19 pandemic, star sprinter Perello is looking forward to racing at the college level as he will be attending Bucknell University and competing for its men’s track program. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After a disappointing junior campaign last year for the Princeton High boys’ track team, star sprinter Matt Perello knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish this spring.

“Last season wasn’t the best for me, I was plateauing a little bit; I was coming off an injury so it wasn’t really good for me,” said Perello, whose personal bests coming into this spring were 11.09 in the 100 and 22.31 in the 200.

“I still had PRs from sophomore year that I really wanted to break last year so this spring season, I really wanted to break all of those. I wanted to break 22 seconds in the 200. I wanted to break 50 seconds in the 400. I wanted to break 11 seconds in the 100. Running track in high school, you are always looking to  get better. You are trying to self-improve and improve your team.”

But as Perello was rounding into form in preseason training this March, he lost the chance to display his improvement as schools were closed to in-person learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic and weeks later, the spring sports season was formally canceled.

Working mainly from home, Perello did his best to stay sharp.

“We had little workouts at our house; we would go on Zoom and do bodyweight lifts and stuff like that,” recalled Perello, a PHS team captain.

“We would go to the Princeton University track and work out in little groups keeping our distance. I wasn’t trying to peak or be at race pace, or race readiness. I was just trying to keep myself active and keep in a stable state where I know I am comfortable.”

Earlier this month, Perello got in some good work as he took part in the Princeton Recreation Department’s high school track camp held at the Princeton High track.

“The atmosphere was great, a lot of us know each other, it was mostly our track team,” said Perello of the program which took place from July 13-15.

“It was very nice, it was very fun. It was very unstructured which I liked a lot. If you had your own little workout that you wanted to do, you could go do it.”

With camp concluding with racing on the final day, Perello had more fun than he had originally expected.

“When I got up to the line, all of the adrenaline came out because I was ready to race,” said Perello, who posted times of 22.65 in the 200 and 11:36 in the 100.

“It didn’t really feel like that until I stepped on the line. I really didn’t want to race because I didn’t feel like I was race ready. I didn’t peak so I was a little scared and a little skeptical. But now that I am here and I raced, I feel great.”

Perello feels great about his future as he will be attending Bucknell University and competing for its men’s track program.

“My dad and I visited Bucknell out of the blue; he said let’s go visit Bucknell, you never know,” said Perello, who also considered Lehigh and Bowdoin in his recruiting process.

“We got on campus and I loved it. I started talking to the coach and they said we would love to have you. I was like wow, OK. I did a visit in October and I loved the guys.”

Over the summer, Perello has been gearing up for his debut with the Bison.

“They sent us workouts to do, I have been following them as much as I can,” said Perello.

“Colleen Linko [PHS girls’ track star and fellow co-captain] and I are running there this fall so we have been working out together.”

With Bucknell currently planning to have its campus open this fall to all students, Perello has been bonding with his future teammates.

“I have been talking to some of the new freshmen coming in,” said Perello.

“We are going to hang out next week, just to get to know each other. There are no fall sports but we are going to start training in September.”

As he looks forward to starting his time at Bucknell, Perello is determined to make the most out of his experience there.

“I really took it for granted, the whole high school experience and the season,” said Perello,

“We are so lucky and gifted here. Having it taken away really puts a new perspective into my eyes. I am really grateful to be going to Bucknell and to be running there. I hope we can run in the spring.”