Cavanaugh looks back at career with MU

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Matt Cavanaugh (11) runs at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Feb. 22. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

When distance runner Matt Cavanaugh came into the Marquette track and field program as a first-year in 2016, he said his main focus was his individual success. As he got older, he ended up becoming a leader for his team.

“I was way more focused on my goals and my success, but as the years went on, I became more invested in team goals,” Cavanaugh said.

The senior out of New Berlin, Wisconsin, came to Marquette because he thought he would fit really well with both the team and the school’s academics.

“He’s just a really solid kid,” cross country head coach Sean Birren said. “He fit in really well with what Marquette was looking for.”

Birren also said Cavanaugh had high expectations for himself on and off the track, as he is currently studying biological sciences.

In fact, continuing his studies through a Marquette graduate program in bioinformatics is the reason Cavanaugh will not be using his extra redshirt eligibility for next year’s outdoor season.

“My goals are more or less to improve the health of the community, and I think that’s super important,” Cavanaugh said.

He also added that in the fall he will start applying to attend a public health school after finishing his grad program at Marquette.

When he wasn’t hitting the books, Cavanaugh was becoming more and more a leader of his team in both cross country and track and field.

“He was one of the guys we would go to to make sure things went smoothly,” Birren said. “For me, as a coach, we couldn’t ask for a better teammate.”

Birren described how Cavanaugh was always willing to take on responsibility. He made sure practices ran smoothly and helped out younger athletes and coaches however he could.

On the track, Cavanaugh was constantly improving himself.

“Lifting has been so important,” Cavanaugh said. “I’ve improved a lot by doing strength training and stretching exercises.”

Cavanaugh also said he needed to learn time management in order to effectively make the transition from high school to college.

“College is very different from high school, and I needed to be focused on the task I was doing to try and be as efficient as possible,” Cavanaugh said.

Birren said Cavanaugh was making a lot of strides in his final year, which made the cancellation of the spring season due to COVID-19 all the more disappointing.

“This situation really does suck, but it’s also a good learning experience,” Birren said. “We have to take advantage of the opportunities we have, and unfortunately we just ran out of road to run on in terms of the season ending the way it did.”

Cavanaugh reflected back on two moments from his junior year as his most memorable, the first being the 2018 Louisville Classic where Cavanaugh set a personal record. The other event was when he was able to race in regionals his junior year and said it was team bonding experience he won’t forget.

“You don’t realize going into college that you’re going to become super close to your teammates,” Cavanaugh said. “These are guys I was with basically 24/7, and now I’m gonna be friends with a lot of these guys for hopefully the remainder of my life.”

While running is what brought them together, Birren said that he’s looking forward to getting to hear more from Cavanaugh with him being on campus next year for graduate school.

“He was always a hard worker on and off the track and wanted to know what he could do to help,” Birren said. “It’s been a blessing to have him on the team.”

This story was written by Matt Yeazel. He can be reached at matthew.yeazel@marquette.edu or on Twitter @MJYeazel.