Piner High School's Matthew Mulligan. Press Democrat photo by Jeff Kan Lee


Piner High School track and cross country coach Luis Rosales said there may be more gifted runners out there, but there are not a whole lot of athletes who work harder than senior Matthew Mulligan.

“People look at him. He has gotten where he is because he just works his butt off,” Rosales said. “If I told the kids to run 50 miles, 55 miles, then he would run 65, 70 miles all on his own. That is how he approaches everything he does.”

It’s an approach that is getting results.

Mulligan has earned a 4.77 grade-point average at Piner while taking advantage of the school’s Early College Magnet Program partnership with Santa Rosa Junior College.

He has applied to top-flight universities, including Claremont McKenna and Occidental, where both track programs have expressed interest in Mulligan suiting up for their squads.

Mulligan placed 33rd in the CIF state cross-country championship last month and is prepping for his final season on the Prospectors’ track team.

“I started running four years ago now,” he said. “I didn’t really think I was going to be that good, but I might actually have the opportunity to run in college.”

But Mulligan isn’t all about running. He plays the guitar and composes his own music.

He is pondering a career as a lawyer because he is interested in restructuring the welfare system.

“I have some friends who financially maybe aren’t getting the help they need and in some respects there are some people who are abusing the system,” he said. “I want to help people like my friends.”

He is also considering studying chemical engineering because he wants to develop a shunt that does not break down in the body. Diagnosed with hydrocephalus as an infant, Mulligan has had multiple brain surgeries to implant a shunt to help drain spinal fluid to other parts of his body where it can be absorbed.

But Mulligan said the condition never has kept him from doing what he wants to do.

Mulligan credits the Piner community for providing a great high school experience. English teacher Simone Spearman and science teacher Kristi Erickson have had a profound influence on Mulligan, second only to his parents, he said.

“I didn’t think I would be the runner I am, I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to work with people as intelligent as my classmates and still be able to achieve at a high level,” he said of his time at Piner High. “I have really enjoyed pretty much every single one of my teachers.”

(Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writesan education blog at She can be reached at 526-8671, or on Twitter @benefield.)


Matthew Mulligan

Age: 17
Birthplace: Santa Rosa
Lives with: Mom Susie, dad Greg
What’s in his iPod: Everything, including Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley and The Fray
Favorite hobby: Running
Dream job: Lawyer or chemical engineer
Favorite TV show: Sportscenter
Favorite food: Pizza with pesto, pepperoni and sausage
Quote: “My mom always says, ‘If you are going to do something, do your best. There is really no use in saying you are going to do something and then doing it with a half effort.’ ”