White Lightning: Meet Mathew Boling, The White Kid Dominating A ‘Black Sport’

Boling is proof that athletic excellence isn’t confined to a gender or skin tone.

Matthew Boling is the hottest name in American track and field right now. And while his accomplishments are jaw-droppingly impressive, his skills are only part of the reason why he’s gone viral.

Boling is white. And I’m not talking “White Donte” from the Milwaukee Bucks white, or even the Jon B. kind of white.

Boling is white-white.

Texas, a state that’s always been a hotbed for producing top-notch high school and collegiate sprinters, is being dominated by the 18-year old that’s going to the University of Georgia next year with hopes of competing in the 2020 Olympics.

It’s as funny as it is fascinating.

“White Lightning,” as he’s been dubbed, started going viral last month when he broke a national high school record in the 100-meter dash by running a 9.98. However, due to it being wind-aided, it wasn’t recognized in the history books.

However, it was the beginning of Boling’s national notoriety as he would later go on to run a 10.2 in the 100-meter dash and put up a performance in the long jump that was seventh in preps history.

“Humble them. Make them explain what happened to their friends,” Bomani Jones jokingly said on a recent episode of ESPN’s “High Noon”about how Boling was dominating his black opponents.

On Saturday, the Houston Strake Jesuit senior set a record by running a 10.13 in the 100-meter dash at the Texas UIL state track and field championships at the University of Texas, besting a record that had stood for 29 years.

“When I looked at the race before us and saw the wind was 1.3, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m excited,” he said to ESPN. “Because after last week everyone was like, ‘Oh, the wind was illegal,’ and stuff like that. So I’m like, ‘All right, I’ll just drop a fast time today.”

Boiling won gold three times on Saturday as he also competed in the Class 6A boys long jump, with a distance of 25-feet and 4.5 inches. However, his performance as the anchor leg of the 4x400m relay is what brought the 25,000 fans in the stadium to their feet, as Boiling ran a 44.74 to bring his team back for a victory that seemed virtually impossible to come back from.

“I knew he had about a 15-meter lead,” he told ESPN. “But I thought I could get him. At the [final] 100 [meters], I heard the crowd get loud and it really helped me.”

Anytime you watch clips of Boling, his speed automatically catches your eye. But the thing that keeps your attention is how effortlessly he runs away from the competition. It’s like watching Michael Johnson or Usain Bolt run a race, except with a white dude being the leader of the pack, which is something that’s highly unusual in American sprinting.

Historically, certain races have always dominated specific positions in sports.

For instance, outside of CC Sabathia, you would have to go back to Dontrelle Willis in the mid-2000s to find a black starting pitcher that was dominant in Major League Baseball.

In the NFL, there hasn’t been a white starting cornerback since 2002, and that role was reserved for Jason Sehorn, who was the only one during the peak of his career.

The same can be said of the running back position. Since 1985, only three white running backs have rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season. Craig James in 1985, Peyton Hillis in 2010, who would go on to suffer the “Madden Curse” after the being the cover boy for Madden 2012, and Carolina Panther’s tailback Christian McCaffrey last season.

But if Boling is looking for a mentor, NBC’s NFL commentator Cris Collingsworth might be the one to talk to, because before playing eight seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver, he was a high school track champion in Florida.

“When I won the state [Class-AAA] 100-yard dash championship in high school [in 10 flat], 16 guys were in the heats, and 15 were black. You talk about your lone honkie. Up in the stands, all the relatives were betting like mad on the finals. My brother Greg heard them asking who that white boy was. Greg said, ‘Bet the white boy.’ The black guy next to him said, ‘You sure?’ Greg said, ‘Positively.’ The guy got great odds. My big schnozzola won it for me, and the guy slipped Greg 20 bucks out of his winnings,” Collingsworth told Sports Illustrated back in 1981.

Boling’s story is one of race, not racism. His complexion, and his skills have not only given him a nickname, but also a platform and popularity.

Being one of the original Olympic sports, track was always one of the sports that racists would point to as proof that black people are genetically different, leading some to believe that we should be nothing more than athletes and only enjoyed for entertainment purposes.

But when it comes to Boling, he’s proof that athletic excellence doesn’t have to be confined to a gender or a skin tone.

Carron J. Phillips, Senior Columnist with The Shadow League, hails from Saginaw, Michigan. In 2016, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. Phillips graduated with honors from Morehouse College in 2006 and received his Masters in 2011 from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.