Film and a shaved head: How to prepare for a championship win

Matt Strangio reflects on his WCC individual men’s title

By Emma Swett | November 10, 2023 11:00am

Matt Strangio crosses the finish line to win the WCC. Photo courtesy of Portland Pilot Athletics.

The night before the race ended with watching the film of some of his best races. The morning of the race started out light with a protein bar, nothing too heavy. The talks before the race with his coach consisted of strategy: be cautious, be conservative. Once the race began, however, it was a different story.

On Oct. 28 in Malibu, California, Matt Strangio became the 2023 West Coast Conference Men’s Cross Country individual champion. 

The success was a long time coming for Strangio. This was the win he needed. And one lap in, he knew it was going to be good. 

“I got a lap in and I was like, ‘I feel too good to be hanging back,’” Strangio said. “So I just kind of got up there with the front guys.” 

Strangio started the season with a goal of winning the WCC’s. But after bouts of illness, his new goal going into the WCC Championships was a top five finish, hoping to gain momentum heading into regionals. However, going around the hairpin curve of the last mile, Strangio knew this was his race. 

“The longer the race went on the better I felt,” Strangio said. “I kind of had the feeling coming on realizing I feel good today.”

Strangio realized he was running better than he had all season. 

“I felt way better at a mile than any other race,” Strangio said. “Felt way better at two miles, three miles, four miles than any other race, and had this feeling build up inside and I realized it was going to be really good.” 

Strangio holds and poses with his individual title trophy in Malibu, California. Photo courtesy of Matt Strangio.

For Strangio, the preparation started the night before. 

“I attacked the night before differently than a lot of people,” Strangio said. “I’m a realist until we go to dinner and then I tell myself, ‘I’m Matt Strangio,’ and it all goes out the window.”

The night before consisted of watching ohis favorite filmed high school races and visualizing his highs as a runner. These activities all contributed to boosting his confidence, a necessity after coming off what had been a rough patch for Strangio. 

But these weren’t Strangio’s only strategies to get his confidence back.

Many have now seen the photo of Strangio rubbing his head as he crosses the finish line, sporting his new buzzcut. 

The idea came after what had been a disappointing finish for Strangio at the Nuttycombe Invitational in Wisconsin. Following a tradition he had started in high school, he decided he was going to shave his head for the postseason. 

“Change the look and it’ll change the outcome,” Strangio said. “And I think it did.”  

A friend of Strangio holds a dust pan of his shaved hair. Photo courtesy of Matt Strangio.

With his positive results, Strangio is encouraging his teammates to follow suit heading into regionals. 

“It’s not about the hair,” Strangio said. “It’s about the message.” 

Strangio became the first Pilot to achieve the title of WCC individual champion since 2018. Next up for him will be the NCAA West Regional race in Sacramento, California on Nov. 10, where he hopes to qualify for the NCAA Championships. 

Emma Swett is a sports reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at