Matt Clayton doesn't have any national championships notched on his running shoes. There are no Olympic medals gathering dust on his shelf.
But Sunday at the $20,000 Reebok Arturo Barrios Invitational, the 24-year-old San Diego State student raced against those who have such things--and won.
Clayton, of Imperial Beach, waited until the final 200 yards of the 10-kilometer race to pull away from a talented field to win in 28 minutes 30 seconds, an impressive 39-second improvement over his previous 10K best of 29:09, run just two weeks ago.
Although Clayton earned $4,000 for first place, the victory seemed reward enough. Among those he beat Sunday were Suleiman Nyambui, who won 15 NCAA championships in cross-country, indoor and outdoor track while competing for UTEP in the early 1980s.
Nyambui, 37, was second in 28:39, followed by Mexican standouts Salvador Garcia (28:44), Abundio Mondragon (28:52) and Jorge Marquez (29:12).
"Oh, this is a big-time thrill for me," said Clayton, a cross-country coach at Bonita Vista High School. "My main goal was to run under 29 minutes and break into the top five. I didn't think I'd win the thing."
In the women's division, Rosa Mota, the 1988 Olympic marathon champion from Portugal, had little trouble outrunning a quality field that included four-time U.S. Olympian Francie Larrieu-Smith, 1987 NCAA 10,000-meter champ Sylvia Mosqueda and Norway's Ingrid Kristiansen, the women's world-record holder at several distances, including 10K.