Photo Courtesy of Suffolk Athletics
Suffolk University senior Matyas Csiki-Fejer took home All-American honors at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships in Louisville on Nov. 20.
He is the first Suffolk runner ever to achieve All-American status.
The achievement concludes a historic season in Suffolk Athletics, as Csiki-Fejer was named the Coastal Commonwealth Conference Runner of the Week five times. He was also named CCC Runner of the Year and CCC Scholar Athlete of the Year.
“We’re insanely proud of him,” said Cross Country senior Nicolas Malm. “He’s really our golden boy, and just his attitude about [his achievements] makes it even better because we know how humble he gets about it and how much it means to him. And it means something to us.”
“His victory is our victory, and we just love how we’re able to experience and share that with him,” Malm continued.
In the midst of Csiki-Fejer’s success, this season presented unique challenges. Namely, returning from online learning during the start of the pandemic, which canceled Suffolk’s cross country season in 2020.
“We’ve had essentially a whole year off of not really competing,” said Malm. “A lot of the sophomores we have haven’t even competed until now. I’d say with the added challenge of coming back into reality and getting used to getting up early for practice and actually going to class every day in person … people have to try harder to stay focused.”
This was also the first season that Suffolk had meaningful competition in the CCC, after leaving the Great Northeast Conference at the end of the spring 2020 semester. With a new conference came adjusting to new competitors.
“Our coach does a lot of research so we kind of knew where we stacked up,” said senior team member Hunter Toyoda. “We’re a young but strong team. We didn’t race on a lot of the courses that we had raced on in the past and we hadn’t faced a lot of those schools so we didn’t know what to expect, but we adjusted well. We just went out there and ran.”
Csiki-Fejer agreed that adjusting to the new conference was a challenge.
“But I think everybody was really ready to get going after the COVID year,” Csiki-Fejer said. “Everybody was just done with not doing anything and was antsy to actually compete.”
Csiki-Fejer also battled an injury toward the end of the season, forcing him to dramatically cut back on running going into regionals and nationals.
“I had Piriformis Syndrome, which is basically nerve inflammation under the glute,” said Csiki-Fejer. “That can’t usually be treated with things like stretching because it’s so deep and that caused me to have to change my [running] form.”
Despite the injury, Csiki-Fejer finished fourth at the NCAA Cross Country East Regionals, which was good enough to earn him a spot at the National Championship meet in Louisville.
“Nationals are always massive and the atmosphere is like nothing else,” said Csiki-Fejer. “A lot of the people competing have fans in the hundreds come down, so the energy was pretty electric and you know everybody is just out there to give the best effort that they can.”
In Louisville, Csiki-Fejer finished 35th in the nation, earning All-American status. The honor is given to those who finish within the top 40 runners.
“It’s very special because getting All-American in cross country is kind of objective — a little bit more so than other sports,” said Csiki-Fejer. “Something like basketball or football, people play different positions so there’s essentially more opportunities to be an All-American. There’s also no objective metrics [in those sports].”
“In cross-country especially, your All-American status isn’t based on how you did throughout the season,” he continued. “You have to show up on that day and you have to be on your top performance when it matters most.”
Being the first runner in Suffolk’s history to earn All-American Honors is something that’s not only special to Csiki-Fejer, but the rest of the team.
“It wasn’t just an accomplishment for him, it was an accomplishment for everybody,” said Toyoda. “Everybody was behind him, supporting him and rooting for him.”
“Not only being a part of the team that had an athlete do that, but being a part of the first recruited class with an athlete that was able to do that is just pretty remarkable,” said Malm. “Seeing everything that Matyas has done makes us honored that we get to run with him, we get to share this team with him, and it makes us so proud.”
Depending on where he goes for graduate school, this could mark the end of a spectacular run for Csiki-Fejer at Suffolk University. The influence that he had on the cross country program and his passion for the sport is something that’s greatly appreciated by his teammates.
“Knowing Matyas since freshman year, I’ve always known he’s just an insane runner and athlete,” said Toyoda. “I think what sets him apart is he truly loves running. He knows everything about the sport and follows all the athletes. He just wants to win and wants to be the best.”
Malm said Csiki-Fejer always puts the team first, and his mentality is what sets him apart from other runners.
“Everyone here on the team is incredibly dedicated and has the right mindset, but he is like a machine,” Malm said. He just has a way of thinking about what he has to do and how he’s going to get there…real talk, he is our best runner and with that comes a lot of added pressure and expectations.”
While some may wonder what makes Csiki-Fejer so good at his sport, he insists that there is no secret to his success: just a lot of dedication.
“You just have to be consistent and you have to be willing to do the work,” said Csiki-Fejer. “I don’t think I’m the most talented member of the Suffolk team, to be honest. I think I’m willing to do the work and I think other people are onboard with that as well.”
Follow Jamie on Twitter @JamieTaris