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Freshman to phenom: An overview of Matt Aho’s Bradley career

Graduate Matt Aho. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics

Not many athletes find themselves picking up a new sport during their junior year of high school. However, that is precisely how Bradley graduate student Matt Aho found cross country. Training for soccer in the fall, Aho found success and joy through running. 

“It looked like a lot more fun,” Aho said. “I was running pretty well on the track, so it made sense to pivot and do cross country. I started running full time by my junior year of high school.”

Since he is a triplet, cross country has become a part of the family. The graduate’s brother, Mike Aho, runs for the cross country and track team at the University of Michigan. His sister, Elizabeth Aho, also runs for Drake University.

“It started as just something that we could bond over, and we just ended up all running,” Aho said.

With Aho fighting injuries during the first two years on the Hilltop, he finally began to see success in his last two seasons. When head coach Darren Gauson was asked to describe Aho in one word, Gauson responded quickly: “relentless.”

“Matt suffered from a number of injuries early in his career, but that never stopped his desire or his belief in his ability or my ability to coach him to the highest level possible,” Gauson said.

The men’s and women’s track and field teams clinched seven individual Missouri Valley Conference championships this past indoor season. 

Aho did more than his part.

The graduate finished second overall in the men’s 5000-meter with a time of 14:13.4. Four events later, Aho finished second overall again in the men’s 3000-meter with a time of 8:15.8, making himself a central component in the Braves’ clean sweep of the MVC in that event.

“Getting that championship back and being a main member of that team was incredible,” Aho said. “Winning itself was great, but sharing it with all the guys was truly memorable; a year I will never forget.”

Aho spoke on the importance of his teammates and mentioned that that was a key reason he committed to Bradley. Nevertheless, battling injuries for the majority of his college career, Aho was never able to run in the MVC Championship during his early years and was only able to cheer on his teammates. That’s why victory has never tasted sweeter for the graduate.

“Matt has just improved every single year,” Gauson said. “The only thing that ever held Matt back was a few injuries early in his career, since that point, it has been a linear progression to the top.”

Coming into a solid team as a freshman, Aho tried to soak in as much information as he could. Staying focused and dedicated paid dividends as he broke the Braves’ school record for the men’s 5000m during their 2023 BU David Hemery Valentine Invitational this year with a time of 14:06.86.

There is nothing but high praise for Aho around Bradley. Gauson was even adamant that incoming first-year students should look at how persistent Matt was within his career at Hilltop.

“Never give up and stay resilient,” Gauson said. “He is so proud of Bradley and wants others to represent Bradley in the best possible way. Win, but with class.”

Winning with class is something that the graduate student holds near and dear. Aho has been a part of the MVC Honor Roll for four years in a row, MVC Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award in 2021 and 2022, and was also an MVC scholar-athlete for two consecutive seasons. Winning on the track and inside the classroom has always been his priority.

“The classroom is as important as running,” Aho said. “The idea of working hard at everything I do, hard work will get me to where I want to be, which has translated to the classroom and the track.”

With only the outdoor season left, Aho hopes to improve his times from the last season and get a crack at the NCAA Regionals. With experience under his belt and school records being broken, Aho and the Braves look promising moving forward to the outdoor season.

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