En route to his membership on the Liberian track team that will compete in the Olympics at Rio de Janeiro in a couple of weeks, Minnesota State University, Mankato (MSU) sprinter Emmanuel Matadi pulled one of the greatest magical acts ever performed by a Minnesota athlete. More on that in a moment.
Matadi, 25, who will compete in the 100 and 200 meter dashes, moved to the United States from Liberia when he was seven and to Minnesota from California while in sixth grade.
By his senior year at St. Paul Johnson in the spring of 2009, he was among the state’s top sprinters, dominating the St. Paul City Conference and culminating his prep career as the Class AA state champion in the 100.
From there he would earn junior college All-American honors at Butler Community College (Kansas) in 2011, leading to a scholarship offer from the University of Louisville — which he accepted.
Here’s where the magic act comes in.
After spending the 2011-12 season at Louisville, Matadi disappeared. I couldn’t find him. I thought he was through as a track and field athlete.
Two years later, Matadi magically reappeared at MSU. It turned out that he had one more year of eligibility left and decided to spend it in Mankato rewriting the school’s record book in the process.
Matadi set school records by running a 6.66 in the 60m, 21.10 in the 200m, and 10.1 in the 100m. He was the NCAA Division II champion in the 100 and 200 in 2015.
Which bring us to 2016.
While most onlookers, including me, thought that Matadi had culminated a brilliant career at MSU, he disappeared again only to reappear and qualify for the Olympics while setting a new record for Liberia in the 100 (10.14).
Quite the magical act.
There is a bit of irony to this story. In 2009 Matadi graduated from St. Paul Johnson as one of the school’s most decorated track and field athletes.
Ten years earlier (1999) Thomas Tapeh graduated from St. Paul Johnson as one of the school’s most decorated football players. The fullback would go on to play at the University of Minnesota and five more years in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and Vikings.
One might be wondering where Tapeh fits in this article. As a youngster, Tapeh moved with his family to St. Paul from Liberia.
Sometimes history has a way of repeating itself.
Mitchell Palmer McDonald welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.