Palo Alto High School senior Lucas Matison represented the United States Mountain Ultra Trail national team this weekend, finishing in 18th place out of 70 in his age group during the Junior World Mountain Running Championships in Casette di Massa, Italy.
According to Matison, this would not have been imaginable six months ago when he was hit by a car while biking on Park Avenue. This confined him to a wheelchair for several weeks, keeping him out for the entire Paly track season.
However, even when Matison doubted himself, he never gave up on his goal: to become the great runner that he once was, a runner capable of a fifth place finish at the Central Coast Section finals and winner at the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League finals.
“With all the bad luck I had last year, it really discouraged me,” Matison said. “At one point, soon after my accident, I felt like I would never be the same good runner I once was. But I never gave up and kept at it, and within a few months, I was able to go from a crippled kid in a wheelchair to a world champion mountain runner.”
Matison’s initial goal was never anything near qualifying for the World Mountain Running Championships. As soon as he was back on his feet, he simply started to look ahead to the cross country season.
“My hope for [this] cross country season is for our team to make it to state and give it all we got when we’re there,” Matison said.
Matison’s impressive runs during the off-season, which he recorded on the run recording app Strava, were spotted by a member of the senior United States Mountain Running team, David Roche. According to Matison, Roche advised him to send his running resume to the team’s head coach.
“To qualify for the national team, you had to fill out an application with a running resume, your most impressive running achievements and send it to the junior team coach,” Matison said. “You also had to have a 5k time of 16:30 or faster. Only four boys aged 16-19 in the country are chosen.”
According to Matison, he was shocked when he found out that he had been selected to the U.S team .
“I never thought I would even come close to making it to the world champs,” Matison said. “I am very honored and proud that I could race in the world champs.”
On Sept. 10, Matison left for Italy where he met his teammates Erik Armes, Jeff Theis, Tabor Scholl, Mandy Ortiz and Marisa Ruskan. He went over the course with them: an 8.4 kilometers course featuring a total ascent of 710 meters, one that goes through caves, up stairways and finishes on a terrace of quarry facing the sea.
Matison says that everyone gave all they had to finish in 10th place in the overall team rankings.
“I am very pleased by my team’s performance,” Matison said. “Everyone gave it all they had. My hope was to give it all I got to help the USA team as much as I could.”
Matison is currently concentrating on the upcoming Paly cross country season, in addition to the Foot Locker cross country championship.