Lee’s Summit High School graduate, state champion and United States Olympian Matt Tegenkamp spent Thanksgiving week in town with his family. A Portland resident now, the Lee’s Summit Tiger was part of a community celebration in his honor Nov. 19 at Lee’s Summit City Hall. State Rep. Mike Cierpiot, Mark Siettmann, chief of staff for State Sen. Will Kraus and Lee’s Summit Mayor Randy Rhoads were on hand to present Tegenkamp with resolutions and proclamations in his honor.
Tegenkamp competed in the 5,000-meters in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, and qualified and competed again in 2012 as a U.S. representative in the London Games, this time in the 10,000.
During his recent visit to Lee’s Summit and his community celebration, Tegenkamp answered a few questions about his best memories of a runner and how his hometown continues to change with each trip home.
Q. Matt, you’ve been to the Olympics twice and have many running honors to your name. When you graduated from Lee’s Summit High in 2000, what were your goals then?
After graduating from Lee’s Summit, I left for the University of Wisconsin-Madison which has a great tradition in distance running. I had the same goals as many freshman entering college athletics...be a key member on varsity, help win conference titles, rack up All-America honors and do everything possible to win national title (both team and individual). I succeed on most fronts but the national titles eluded me.
Leaving Lee’s Summit and entering college I knew the Olympics existed, but it was such a distance dream. I think it became a goal rather quickly though in the middle of my freshman year at UW-M after representing Team USA at World championships for Cross Country (2001). I won the USA junior cross country national title and finished fifth at the world Junior champs...in the world race, I was running against East African runners that had earned medals at previous world championships or Olympics which instantly let me know I belong. After that race It was the first time I realized I could make a living out running and possible get to pinnacle of all sports: the Olympics
Q. You said you make it back to Lee’s Summit once or twice a year, what do you take note of when you travel back to town? What are some of the biggest changes?
When I left back in 2000 the city of Lee’s Summit was growing very fast which seemed to disconnect sections of the community. Now, 12 years later, the city’s infrastructure – whether it be roads, new subdivisions, downtown, schools, parks, community centers or greenways – are all first class. In my opinion Lee’s Summit has done a great job of connecting all that growth, creating outlets for an active lifestyle, and bring a strong sense of pride to the community. All things my family and I would look for in a community.
Q. Lee’s Summit has been nationally recognized for its parks and recreation system. How vital do you think that is for encouraging future professional athletes and for general health and wellness?
I have been very fortunate to live in places such as Madison, Wisc. and Portland, Org., both of which have very integrated park systems that become the backbone of the community. It excites me that Lee’s Summit is making parks and greenways a major focus and key asset to the cities continued growth. Lee’s Summit’s community and parks division have made great strides but there is still more that can be done and I look forward to seeing what the future holds.
Q. What are some of your best memories in competition, both in high school and professionally?
High School-1997 Cross Country State title (team) was totally unexpected; state Record runs both cross country and (in track and field) in the 3,200; cross country was special because it was redemption from the year before; the 3,200 was special because the race was moved to the night under the lights (due to weather) and the crowd was electric helping me become the first Missouri runner to break the 9-minute mark.
Professionally-2007 World Champs in Osaka, Japan, fourth in the 5,000 (.03 seconds away from bronze); two-mile American Record of 8:07.07 (2007-present), 2009 USA champ (5,000); and two-time Olympian.
Q. What advice do you have for younger runners today in Lee’s Summit, those looking to possibly continue running after high school?
One of my mantras...Nothing ever comes easy! If you want to succeed at anything you have to be willing to work at it. You have to set goals, find a mentor and put in hard work all year round.
Q. What personal and professional plans does Matt Tegenkamp have for the next 5-10 years?
Personal – I am very fortunate with two boys (Brayden, 2-and-a-half and Nolan, 11 weeks) and an amazing supportive wife (Michelle) and I want to continue to grow as a husband and father to provide for my growing family.
Athletically – Make the 10,000 m 2013 team for World champs; Transition to the half-marathon & marathon in 2014 and if these next two years go well make a run a the 2016 Rio games!
I would like to thank everyone that helped support the Family T-shirt fundraiser which allowed my family to be a part of the Olympic experience with me! To me the best part of the Olympic games is reflecting back on the people that helped me along throughout my athletic career. I have always tried to represent LS to the best of my ability and I hope that I have inspired some along the way! Again, the Tegenkamp family thanks the Lee’s Summit community.