WOODBERRY FOREST — Mathieu Masse-Pelletier joined the Woodberry Forest track and field program last winter to aid in his linear and overall athleticism.
Three months later, the junior earned all-state honors in multiple events to lead the Tigers’ track and field team to a third-place finish at the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association state outdoor meet in Richmond.
The Quebec City native set new a new school record in the shot put with a throw of 50 feet, six inches. He followed that up by setting the program standard in the discus (171-4), nearly 20 feet better than his personal best, to secure his second state title of the spring.
The junior’s performance qualified him to compete in next month’s New Balance Nationals, which will be held June 13-16 in Greensboro, North Carolina. That athletic excellence solidified his status as the Schewels Athlete of the Week.
“Last week’s state meet was extremely successful for our entire team,” Masse-Pelletier said. “We finished third, which was tremendous for our program. The head track coach, Curtis Phillips, did a tremendous job of building a culture of hard work and leadership and it paid off that day. On a personal level, I threw [personal bests] in both my events. My mindset and preparation are what made me successful.”
Athletic success is nothing new for Masse-Pelletier. The junior standout was exposed to sports at an early age and has thrived in everything he’s done. As a child, he played baseball and hockey and competed in karate and boxing to stay active.
Masse-Pelletier’s first true love was soccer. He played goalkeeper until he was 10 years old. That’s when he discovered football.
“I switched to football afterward and this was the best decision of my life,” Masse-Pelletier said. “I liked soccer, but I wanted to try something else and it happened that I was just old enough to start full-contact football. I fell in love with the game and never left it.”
Football is what eventually brought Masse-Pelletier to Central Virginia. After a “good season” at his previous high school, he decided he wanted to go to prep school and talked with his coaches about possible opportunities. One of them had connections with Woodberry Forest and the rest was history.
“Woodberry is a place where students and faculty strive for greatness and build relationships with one another,” Masse-Pelletier said. “After my visit, I knew this is where I wanted to go.”
Masse-Pelletier acclimated himself quickly to American football with the Tigers. The junior led the team in tackles and developed a reputation as a big hitter in the secondary. His penchant for contact also earned him a nickname — The Canadian Lumberjack.
“The Canadian Lumberjack was introduced by a fellow student at the start of the season,” Masse-Pelletier said. “It followed me from there and I loved it.”
That reputation has served him well on the recruiting trail, too. Masse-Pelletier picked up his first offer in February from the University of Pennsylvania. Since then the offers have continued to flow in from schools such as Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Richmond, William & Mary, Massachusetts and Liberty.
“Since it’s my first year in the U.S. playing football, not a lot of schools knew about me going into my junior season,” Masse-Pelletier said. “After a good season, a decent amount of schools started showing interest. A lot of schools mentioned my physicality as the strongest asset of my game.”
Unlike public schools, Woodberry Forest requires students to play a sport for each trimester. In need of a sport, Masse-Pelletier elected to join the indoor track team. The decision proved beneficial, as he captured the VISAA indoor state shot put title.
This spring, he continued as a track athlete and the results were astonishing. His first throw in the shot this spring was 35 feet and he threw 105 feet in the discus at the start of the spring campaign. Three months later, he had improved to nearly 51 feet in the shot put and more than 171 feet in the discus.
“It took a lot of hard work and dedication,” he said. “Explosion has always been my strongest asset and I believe this is what really made me successful in both those events. I also had great coaches that spent a lot of extra time with me after practices, working on footwork and technique. The two events are similar in the fundamental techniques, but the shot circle is a lot smaller, which changes the approach in the circle.”
He admits that playing multiple sports can only help him as an athlete. The junior said he wants to bring more speed to his game next year and lead the defense on the field.
“Track definitely made me more flexible, fast and explosive,” Masse-Pelletier said. “I can bring all those things on the football field to make me more dominant. I think diversity is key in order to become a great athlete. This is the exact reason why we need to pick a different sport for a trimester.”
Masse-Pelletier said one of his role models is former University of Tennessee cornerback Inquoris “Inky” Johnson, who suffered a career-ending injury in 2006 that permanently paralyzed his right arm. Johnson did not let the injury stop him from getting his degree in psychology, as he now serves as a motivational speaker throughout the country.
“Inky Johnson definitely embodies a lot of qualities and principles I cherish, such as dedication, selflessness, faith and giving back to others,” Masse-Pelletier said. “He had a great career in college and was about to make it to the NFL until he came across a life-changing injury.”