NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Matt Blivin's affinity for running didn't start early like you'd expect of most collegiate cross country athletes. In fact he was nearly out of high school by the time he discovered the sport.
"I started running actually in my junior year of high school -- in the spring," admitted Blivin, who ran only a single season of cross country at Charles E. Jordan High in Durham, N.C.
But he was hooked. Five years into his relationship with running, Blivin is now a Belmont senior and a key contributor to the Bruin men's cross country team.
Unlike other sports the biology major tried during his youth, he found an immediate connection when he began running with friends ahead of his senior year of high school. He then joined the cross country and track teams in his final fall and spring and immediately made an impact.
"The main reason is the guys; there's such a family atmosphere," Blivin explained. "I didn't get that from any other sports I played. I really enjoy the atmosphere of cross country running and the team aspect."
Blivin set school records in the 1,600 and 1,000 meters during the indoor track season, then ran on record-setting distance medley and 4x800 relay teams during the outdoor campaign.
The near instant success set him on the path to becoming a Bruin in the fall of 2014.
Blivin ran in four cross country meets as a freshman at Belmont in just his second season of true competition. That fall he set an 8K personal best of 26:24.85 at the Commodore Classic. He ran a season-best 26:25.9 at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational Gold Race 8K last year.
As a junior, Blivin finished 22nd at the 2016 Ohio Valley Conference Championships and 110th at the ensuing NCAA South Regional. With the groundwork laid and another summer of training behind him, Blivin heads into his final season in Belmont red and blue. With a deep men's team this fall that includes four seniors and four standout sophomores, Blivin and the Bruins have their sights set high in 2017.
Perhaps all the way to nationals.
"I think it's silly for the talent we have now to not put that as our goal," he said. "I've never been a person of small goals or desire for small achievements."
The Bruins begin their ambitious trek this week when they host the season-opening 5K Belmont Opener at Percy Warner Park on Saturday. The women's race starts at 9 a.m. with the men to follow at 9:30 a.m.