World-class running times, hoops prowess — look out for Matonovich sisters of Kamloops

Raiya, who turns 14 on June 7, is posting middle-distance running times that rank among the world's best in her age category this year and Jayse, 16, is pegged among the top 15 female B.C. high school basketball players to watch in 2021-2022

The Matonovich sisters are thunder and lightning, a sports storm brewing in the Tournament Capital.

"Jayse is pure strength and muscle and Raiya is lean and speed, and that's how they push each other," said Sukh Matonovich, the athletes' mother. "They're competitive as heck."

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Raiya, who turns 14 on June 7, is posting middle-distance running times that rank among the world's best in her age category this year and Jayse, 16, is pegged among the top 15 female B.C. high school basketball players to watch in 2021-2022.

"She [Raiya] was already spectacular, but now she's tapping on the provincial records, which I'm certain she will get because she's got two years to get them," said Kamloops Track and Field Club coach Sean Lehmann, who has been working with Raiya for two years.

"She's got an incredible amount of talent, the most I've ever seen. She's also got a very strong work ethic. Her times right now as a 13-year-old are already good enough for full-ride scholarships."

Raiya clocked in at 2:10.78 in the 800m on May 13 at Hillside Stadium, the head-turning time that made her an overnight Kamloops media darling.

She dismantled the North American record for fastest 800m time by a Grade 8 girl in 2021, the mark previously held by Elliana Lomeli of Clovis, Calif. Lomeli ran 2:15.53 on April 29.

The fastest time posted in the world in 2021 by a 2007-born female is 2:08.45, the feat accomplished on Feb. 6 by Ivy Boothroyd of Sydney, Australia.

Raiya slots in at No. 2.

(Find the North American records on athletic.net and the world records on worldathletics.org.)

The under-16 B.C. provincial record in the female 800m was set in 1995 by Malindi Elmore of Kelowna. Elmore was 15 when she ran 2:09.93.

Elmore represented Canada at the 2004 Olympic Summer Games in Athens and holds the national female record marathon time of two hours, 24 minutes and 50 seconds.

"Well, I mean, it's definitely true that I'm a very outgoing person," Raiya said. "I like to take risks. I'm not really scared of anything. I just go out and do it. I guess that's what drives my resiliency to get things done."

Earlier this month, Raiya posted a personal-best time in the 1,500m — 4:32.51.

Nobody in her age group in North America has run faster than that in 2021. Only two 2007-born females (Danielle Graham, Australia, 4:29.49; Michi Kawanishi, Japan, 4:30.35) are above Raiya in the worldathletics.org female 1,500m rankings for 2021.

Sukh, former player and head coach for the University College of the Cariboo women's basketball team, knew early on Raiya was a force of nature.

"Jayse was such a great child. I said, 'This is easy. I could do this again,' and then Raiya came along and I was like, 'Whoa, we're stopping right there," Sukh said with a laugh.

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Source: Kamloops This Week

The sticktoitiveness is evident and illustrated well in Raiya's comeback from an injury — hairline stress fracture in her foot— she suffered in September.

"In the beginning, for sure, I was very upset, but I had time to reflect," said Raiya, whose father, John, played soccer at Cariboo College. "I listened to a lot of inspirational people. For example, David Goggins.

"One of his quotes is, 'When you get knocked down, you have to come back better than you were before.' My mindset was I'm going to get better times than before. I'm not going to let this bring me down. It drove me to the point where I'm at now. It still does today."

Raiya's grit was evident from an early age. Sukh calls her recovery in kindergarten from a collapsed lung a Christmas miracle.

"She was emergency airlifted to Children's Hospital," Sukh said. "She went through trauma and they said she might not ever be able to run.

"We sit around and chuckle about that now."

The pandemic shutdown in B.C. coincided with the loss of Sukh's mom, Gian Heer, who died last March.

"We regrouped as a family," Sukh said. "I think that's when the journey started for the girls. When the world shuts down, you have to look for other things to do."

Jayse and Raiya have always sharpened each other through sibling grind, but never more so than during the pandemic.

"We push each other," Jayse said. "We support each other."

Added Raiya: "Sometimes we get a bit heated. But that's sports, right? You've got to get down and dirty going against each other. That's what we love about it. We're both so competitive."

Both were heavily involved with the Thompson Okanagan Football Club, but have stepped away to focus on basketball and running.

Raiya rebounds for Jayse in their backyard court. They took up mountain biking. Jayse rides her bike and accompanies her sister while she runs. They train regularly with TRU WolfPack athletic therapist Kevin Brechin.

Jayse, who spent much of last summer with BC United Basketball Club and coaches Aman Heran and Rich Chambers, has been drilling morning, noon and night, including once or twice a week under the tutelage of WolfPack head coach Goran Nogic.

Ken Olynyk, father of NBA star Kelly Olynyk and former WolfPack athletics director, has also coached Jayse.

In March, Varsity Letters, the website run by B.C. high school sports guru Howard Tsumura, posted a list of 15 female AAA basketball players to watch in 2021-2022.

The list, compiled by the B.C. Secondary Schools Girls Basketball Association, includes Jayse.

"That made me feel really good," said Jayse, point guard for the Sa-Hali Sabres, coached by athletics director Jody Vosper.

Both Matonovich girls will have post-secondary options. Raiya has her eyes on Stanford.

Neither Jayse nor Raiya will be leaving Kamloops before earning their high school diploma at Sa-Hali.

"I grew up in this community and I have a lot of faith in the people that live here, in the kind of expertise and world-class facilities we have," said Sukh, associate director of student research and public engagement at TRU.

"Family values are our core. They'll stay home with us right through Grade 12."

That leaves a few more years for Kamloopsians to catch a glimpse of the storm.

"When I see something ahead of me, I want to achieve it," Raiya said. "I just go for it.

"When you're so passionate about something, you just attack it and keep on attacking it until you achieve it."

© Kamloops This Week

 


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